OBJECTIVE To identify risk factors of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) in US veterans patients. BACKGROUND There are an estimated one million new NMSC cases annually in the United States alone. While other studies with varying foci have evaluated risk factors in different subsets of the general populace, none have examined veterans as a group with potentially unique exposures and risks. METHODS An investigation of risk factors for skin cancer through questionnaire and physical examination on 145 veteran patients with skin cancer and 59 veteran patients without a history of skin cancer was conducted. RESULTS Parents' ethnicity, actinic keratosis on the face or other anatomic sites, solar elastosis of the neck, facial telangiectasias, age of first sunburn, and residency in Indiana were risk factors significantly associated with the development of skin cancer. Other possible risk factors included smoking and radiation therapy. CONCLUSIONS We documented several risk factors which significantly increased the chance of developing skin cancer among veterans. These included ethnic background and solar damage of the skin among others. A review of the literature confirms these risks in the general population, but also further study is warranted to address risk factors like smoking and radiation, particularly in veterans populations. Identification of pertinent risk factors will help to identify high risk individuals, allow detection of new skin cancer at its earliest stage, and develop a profile of favorable lifestyle characteristics that reduce NMSC risk.