The p53 tumor suppressor gene and gene product are among the most diverse and complex molecules involved in cellular functions. Genetic alterations within the p53 gene have been shown to have a direct correlation with cancer development and have been shown to occur in nearly 50% of all cancers. p53 mutations are particularly common in skin cancers and UV irradiation has been shown to be a primary cause of specific 'signature' mutations that can result in oncogenic transformation. There are certain 'hot-spots' in the p53 gene where mutations are commonly found that result in a mutated dipyrimidine site. This review discusses the role of p53 from normal function and its dysfunction in pre-cancerous lesions and non-melanoma skin cancers. Additionally, special situations are explored, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome in which there is an inherited p53 mutation, and the consequences of immune suppression on p53 mutations and the resulting increase in non-melanoma skin cancer in these patients.