Solar ultraviolet irradiation is an environmental carcinogen that causes skin cancer. Caspase-7 is reportedly expressed at reduced levels in many cancers. The present study was designed to examine the role of caspase-7 in solar-simulated light (SSL)-induced skin cancer and to elucidate its underlying molecular mechanisms. Our study revealed that mice with genetic deficiency of caspase-7 are highly susceptible to SSL-induced skin carcinogenesis. Epidermal hyperplasia, tumor volume and the average number of tumors were significantly increased in caspase-7 knockout (KO) mice compared with SKH1 wild-type mice irradiated with SSL. The expression of cell proliferation markers, such as survivin and Ki-67, was elevated in SSL-irradiated skin of caspase-7 KO mice compared with those observed in SSL-exposed wild-type SKH1 mouse skin. Moreover, SSL-induced apoptosis was abolished in skin from caspase-7 KO mice. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, followed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight analysis of skin tissue lysates from SSL-irradiated SKH1 wild-type and caspase-7 KO mice revealed an aberrant induction of keratin-17 in caspase-7 KO mice. Immunohistochemical analysis of skin tumors also showed an increase of keratin-17 expression in caspase-7 KO mice compared with SKH1 wild-type mice. The expression of keratin-17 was also elevated in SSL-irradiated caspase-7 KO keratinocytes as well as in human basal cell carcinomas. The in vitro caspase activity assay showed keratin-17 as a substrate of caspase-7, but not caspase-3. Overall, our study demonstrates that genetic loss of caspase-7 promotes SSL-induced skin carcinogenesis by blocking caspase-7-mediated cleavage of keratin-17.