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Trends in UV Radiation Exposure and Risk of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

By: Joshua D. Madera, MD
Posted: Friday, February 9, 2024

The risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers is substantial and gradually increasing in individuals with persistent occupational exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to a study published in Environmental International. Given these findings, international governments should strive to minimize the extent of UV radiation exposure experienced by their outdoor workers in the hopes of reducing this dermatologic risk, suggested Frank Pega, PhD, of the World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, and colleagues.

Using the WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) systematic review, population-attributable fractions were calculated with estimates of individuals whose occupation exposed them to UV radiation. These population-attributable fractions were subsequently employed to calculate the extent of the burden of non-melanoma skin cancer across populations. Population estimates from 2000, 2010, and 2019 were used in these analyses.

Overall, occupational exposure to UV radiation in 2019 was identified in 28.4% of the working-age population, or approximately 1.6 billion workers. In addition, population-attribution fractions for non-melanoma skin cancer–related deaths and disability-adjusted life years were 29.0% and 30.4%, respectively. The attributable burden of non-melanoma skin cancer resulted in 18,960 patient deaths and 500,000 disability-adjusted life years, with a more pronounced burden identified in men and older individuals, according to the study authors. Moreover, trending rates of attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life years revealed an almost 200% increase between 2000 and 2019.

“The WHO/ILO Joint Estimates highlight the importance of and provide the evidence base for continuing research and action to prevent occupational exposure to UV radiation and, thereby, the attributable burden of non-melanoma skin cancer, and for improving workers’ health equity,” explained Dr. Pega and colleagues.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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