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Evaluating Risk of Basal Cell Carcinoma Linked to Solar Ultraviolet Exposure

By: Joseph Fanelli
Posted: Friday, February 7, 2020

According to findings presented in Environmental Health, investigators observed “significant trends” in basal cell carcinoma risk by radiologic technologists in the United States based on increasing ultraviolet cumulative radiation exposure. Mark P. Little, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues concluded that disease intervention should focus on those with higher levels of ultraviolet radiation exposure.

“Both measures of [ultraviolet radiation exposure] revealed similar excess absolute risk and demonstrated upward curvature in the [ultraviolet radiation exposure] absolute risk exposure response, so that the excess absolute [basal cell carcinoma] risk per unit of cumulative [ultraviolet radiation] exposure is greater for those with higher levels of [ultraviolet radiation] exposure,” the authors noted.

In this trial, the authors enrolled 63,912 white, cancer-free U.S. radiologic technologists from study entry (1983–1998) to exit (2003–2005). The technologists enrolled had known ultraviolet irradiance at up to five residential locations. The investigators used the ground-based National Solar Radiation database on Average Daily Total Global and the satellite-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer data.

Ultimately, 2,151 technologists experienced an incident of primary basal cell carcinoma. The risk of basal cell carcinoma grew with increasing cumulative ultraviolet radiation exposure using both the ground-based and satellite-based data, such that 1 MJ cm− 2 increased risk by 8.48 and 10.15, respectively. Additionally, indications of substantial variation of relative risk with time after exposure and age at exposure were identified. The risk was highest for the period of 10 to 14 years after ultraviolet radiation exposure and for those exposed when younger than age 25.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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