BACKGROUND: The incidence of melanoma is increasing worldwide, causing significant economic burden at community and individual levels. Ultraviolet radiation, from natural sunlight or artificial sources, is the main environmental, modifiable risk factor for melanoma. OBJECTIVES: The present analysis assesses the profile of sun exposure in the French population as well as the level of awareness about ultraviolet risk and protection. METHODS: The survey was conducted via telephone interviews in September and October 2011. In total, 1502 respondents were questioned about their own sun exposure with the question "do you ever, even occasionally, spend time in the sun, during leisure-time, vacation or your professional occupation?" They were also asked about sun protection measures used: protective clothing, a hat or sunscreen. RESULTS: More than three respondents out of four (78%) declared exposing themselves to the sun, with an average of 113 days per year. Of these, 38% did not use appropriate sun protection measures. We identified the following characteristics of individuals declaring high sun exposure: chiefly men under the age of 40, higher socio-professional levels, and adults with no children. Individuals who make a poor use of protective measures are mostly men and of low educational levels. Individuals declaring low sun exposure were chiefly: women, individuals over the age of 60, and those with no professional activity. The high sun protection population comprises mostly: women, higher socio-professional levels, with no specific age-group profile. CONCLUSIONS: Analysis of the EDIFICE Melanoma survey provides information about the attitudes of the French population towards sun exposure. The most frequent contexts of sun exposure and the associated socio-demographic characteristics of the population with at-risk attitudes regarding sun exposure are identified. This deeper insight into the profile of at-risk populations will allow interventions to be more accurately targeted, thus potentially improving public health benefits.