Previous experience in Australia and Sweden showed that public education programs produced substantial changes in people's opinions, attitudes and perceptions about melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, sunlight, sunbeds and suntanning. In order to organize effective prevention campaigns, more must be known about the sunbathing habits of children and adolescents. The aim of our study was to assess the knowledge that young people in a southern European country have about sun exposure. A total of 764 young people ranging from 16 to 22 years old (mean age: 19.3±1.2 years) responded to a questionnaire. Our study indicates that young people are very aware of the risks associated with sunbathing but that they continue to expose themselves without taking precautions. This suggests that: a) the majority of young Italians are reasonably well-informed but they do not take preventative measures; b) one effective measure could be promotion of the idea that an untanned body is more esthetically pleasing than a tanned one; c) a crucial point in the programming of future safety measures in suntan centers involves rigorous and regular controls.