Cancer, long a serious problem in developed countries, is now becoming a serious health concern throughout the world. There has been an alarming increase in the number of new cases of melanoma each year, this cancer increasing at a faster rate than any other neoplasm in some regions. This may be a result of depletion of the ozone layer. An association between non-melanocytic skin cancer and exposure to the sun appears to have first been suggested in 1894; it was not until about 1952 that it was argued that exposure to the sun also causes melanoma. It is commonly believed that skin cancers develop only after long-term exposure to UVR. At the individual level, people who live in sunnier climates comparatively have a higher risk for skin cancer than do people who live in colder climates. This is particularly the case for migrant populations with a fair skin. The present study was conducted to evaluate the knowledge of the young generation in Turkey related to the side effects of sun exposure, and their sun bathing habits. Sun sensitivity, use of sunscreens, sunbathing habits and protective behaviours were determined for a total of 1244 high school students from the answers to a questionnaire completed by them. Data from 627 (50.4 %) females and 617 (49.6 %) males were evaluated. All were aged between 15 and 18 years. Sunscreen use was found to be higher in female students (59 %) than in their male counterparts (45.8 %). The wearing of sunglasses was reported by 36.7 %, whereas the incidence of hat wear was found to be 55.1% overall. The results of this study indicate that, although most high school students are aware of the side effects of sun exposure, they do not pay sufficient attention to protective behaviour. A further study should now be conducted to evaluate the use of sunscreens in a large group.