Workplace exposure to UV radiation and strategies to minimize cancer risk

John W. Cherrie, Mark P. C. Cherrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background
Workplace exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) causes malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The evidence for beneficial effects of solar UV exposure in reducing the risks for other cancers is increasing. The intensity of UV radiation at the Earth’s surface is dependent on latitude, but even in northern European countries exposure can be high enough for outdoor work to cause skin cancer.

Growing points
Awareness of the health risks and benefits of occupational solar UV exposure is poor. Actions to reduce the risk of skin cancer have been identified and employers should recognize their responsibility to actively manage these risks. There is evidence for reduced risks for breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers linked to solar UV exposure.

Sources of data
This narrative review draws on published scientific articles and material designed to assist identifying strategies to protect workers from solar UV exposure.

Areas of agreement
Solar UV exposure can be harmful. Wavelengths in the UVB range are more effective in causing erythema and DNA damage. Solar UV is the main source of vitamin D for most people. Primary and secondary prevention for skin cancer can potentially eliminate these risks but the evidence for effectiveness is limited.

Areas of controversy
Potential health benefits of UV exposure, particularly for reduced cancer risk. Determining and communicating optimal exposure to maximize health benefits. The risk of non-melanoma skin cancers may be more than doubled for some workers in temperate latitudes.

Areas timely for developing research
Exposure-response epidemiological studies; studies of the health benefits of occupational UV exposure; studies of the effectiveness of intervention strategies to prevent skin cancer. Use of low-cost UV sensors in workplaces.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberldac019
JournalBritish Medical Bulletin
Early online date17 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Aug 2022

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