Approximately one out of every three non-melanoma skin cancer deaths is attributed to occupational sun exposure, as revealed in a collaborative report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The findings underscore the escalating burden of non-melanoma skin cancer among outdoor workers, encompassing cancers originating in the skin’s outer layers.
The data discloses that in 2019, a staggering 1.6 billion individuals aged 15 and above, constituting 28% of the working-age population, were exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation while engaged in outdoor work.
Tragically, nearly 19,000 people across 183 countries succumbed to non-melanoma skin cancer in the same year due to occupational sun exposure, with males comprising 65% of the casualties.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, emphasized the significance of addressing this issue, stating, “Unprotected exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation at work is a major cause of occupational skin cancer,” and advocated for effective solutions to shield workers from the sun’s detrimental effects.
The estimates, derived from an analysis of 25 case-control studies involving 286,131 participants across 22 countries and three WHO regions, identify occupational exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation as the third-highest work-related risk factor contributing to global cancer deaths.
Notably, between 2000 and 2019, skin cancer deaths linked to occupational sunlight exposure surged by 88%, escalating from 10,088 to 18,960 deaths.
Gilbert F. Houngbo, ILO Director-General, underscored the importance of ensuring a safe working environment and asserted that fatalities resulting from unprotected solar ultraviolet radiation exposure are largely preventable through cost-effective measures.
He urged collaboration among governments, employers, workers, and their representatives to establish comprehensive rights, responsibilities, and duties aimed at mitigating the occupational risk of UV exposure.
Calling for immediate action, WHO advocates for enhanced protection for outdoor workers engaged in sun-exposed occupations. Recognizing that skin cancer manifests after prolonged exposure, the organization emphasizes the necessity of safeguarding workers from solar ultraviolet radiation starting from a young working age.
Governments are urged to institute, enforce, and implement policies and regulations designed to shield outdoor workers from sun-induced skin cancer.
These measures include providing shade, adjusting working hours to avoid solar noon, delivering education and training, and equipping workers with protective gear such as broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long trousers.
In a collaborative effort, WHO, ILO, the World Meteorological Organization, and the United Nations Environment Programme have launched the SunSmart Global UV App.
This app enables outdoor workers to estimate their exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation, facilitating proactive measures to minimize risk.
Additionally, initiatives to reduce skin cancer risks involve heightening workers’ awareness of when occupational exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation occurs and its correlation with skin cancer.
Providing services and programs for the early detection of skin cancer further contributes to comprehensive efforts aimed at safeguarding the health of outdoor workers.