P53 is a key regulatory molecule in the cellular response to ultraviolet radiation, and TP53 mutation is the most common alteration in non-melanoma skin cancer. The MDM2 oncogene negatively regulates p53 protein levels, and both genes have functional polymorphisms that may modify skin cancer risk. Furthermore, prior research suggests that TP53 mutations preferentially occur on the arginine allele to selectively inactivate the p63 pathway. We tested these hypotheses of susceptibility and preferential mutation in non-melanoma skin cancer. The TP53 Arg72Pro and MDM2 309 polymorphisms were genotyped in a population-based case-control study of non-melanoma skin cancer, and TP53 alteration (mutation and immunohistochemistry staining) was evaluated in case tumors. In 902 cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 676 cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 812 controls, no association was found between the TP53 polymorphism and risk of non-melanoma skin cancer [odds ratio (OR)BCC 0.98, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.80-1.20; ORSCC 0.93, 95% CI 0.75-1.16]. However, carriers of the MDM2 SNP309 G allele did have an elevated risk of non-melanoma skin cancer (ORBCC 1.15, 95% CI 0.93-1.42; ORSCC 1.29, 95% CI 1.02-1.63). We observed an association between TP53 alterations in the tumors and constitutive TP53 genotype (P < 0.01), with alterations preferentially occurring on the proline allele. Collectively, these data highlight the significant effects of genotype on gene-specific mutation events in carcinogenesis.