Two per cent of deadly skin cancer cases in Britain come from working outdoors, according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Researchers estimated that there were 48 deaths and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer each year caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun at work.
The study, at Imperial College London, found that construction workers accounted for the largest proportion of these cases (44 per cent of deaths), followed by agriculture workers (23 per cent of deaths). Public administration and defence workers — including the police and the armed forces — accounted for 10 per cent of deaths.
Dr Lesley Rushton, the study’s lead author, said: ‘We’ve shown previously that people often don’t understand the risks of damage caused by sun in the UK. But this research shows you don’t have to work in the Mediterranean or a traditionally sunny country for the sun to damage your skin.
‘It’s important to get to know what your skin is normally like, and to tell your doctor if you notice any changes to how your skin looks or feels. Skin cancer can appear as a new mole or mark, or it can be a change to something you’ve had for a while.
‘Now that we have a clearer picture of the extent of the damage caused, employers need to make sure they take sun exposure at work seriously and work out how to reduce it.’
It has long been known that sun exposure raises the risk of skin cancer but less work has been done on the impact of occupation and skin health. This nice study from Imperial College puts some flesh on this particular bone and suggests that working in the sun could lead to one death and five new cases of melanoma skin cancer a week.
Using a mathematical model and information from international studies along with the proportion of workers potentially exposed to sun from British data sources, they found that construction workers had the highest number of deaths from skin cancer followed by agricultural workers. They state that there are almost 50 deaths and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer annually in Britain from exposure to the sun at work.
This is not actually news — melanomas and sun exposure are obviously linked — but the study does highlight the fact that both employers and employees should be aware of the risks of skin damage in a given occupation and actively take measures to reduce these risks.
Research score: 3/5