BACKGROUND: High rates of skin diseases and higher non-melanoma skin cancer rates have been reported in farmers. METHODS: Self-report of dermatitis and skin cancer was among the information collected from 1947 California farm operators, mostly men, in a telephone survey. The majority of the farmers cultivated fruits, nuts, or other field crops. RESULTS: Dermatitis was reported by 8.9% of men and 15.8% of women during the previous 12 months. In a logistic regression model, female gender (OR 2.0, 95% confidence interval 1.3-3.0) and respiratory atopy (OR 1.4, 1.01-1.90) were the only significant independent risk factors for reported dermatosis. There was significantly less reporting of skin cancer among field farmers when compared to others. Regular sunscreen use was reported significantly more often by women (42%) as compared to men (11%). CONCLUSIONS: More in-depth studies are needed to get information on the role of agrochemicals as risk factors for dermatitis and skin cancer.