We report on pigmentary characteristics, sun sensitivity and some other possible risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in people 20-74 years of age. A statewide case-control study was conducted in New South Wales, Australia, with population-based sampling of cases (n = 704) and controls (n = 694). Risk of NHL was increased in subjects with hazel eyes (OR = 1.48; 95% CI = 1.07-2.04), very fair skin (OR = 1.44; 95% CI = 1.01-2.07) and poor ability to tan (OR = 1.70; 95% CI = 1.06-2.71). Risk with mild facial freckling as a child (OR = 0.77; 95% CI = 0.59-0.99) was reduced relative to that with no or moderate to severe freckling. Smokers were not at increased risk of NHL. A past history of treatment for skin cancer was associated with a slight nonsignificant increase in risk. Previous radiotherapy and chemotherapy were associated with 1.5- to 2-fold increases in risk but with wide confidence intervals. These results provide weak support for the possibility that sun sensitivity or perhaps sun exposure increases risk of NHL. (C) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.