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Outdoor Workers Still at Risk from Skin Cancer

A new study has revealed the incidence of skin cancer amongst those working outdoors in industries as diverse as construction, agriculture and leisure and entertainment.

The study, which was commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and conducted by researchers at Imperial College London, estimates that malignant melanoma kills nearly 50 people each year in the UK because of exposure to solar radiation at work, with 240 new cases being registered.

Combining the findings with a recent study by Imperial College into work-related non-melanoma skin cancer nationwide, it now appears that as many as five people a day on average in the UK are being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer contracted at work.

In addition, a separate research project commissioned by IOSH found a lack of awareness of the risks of solar, or ultraviolet, radiation  in the industry hardest hit by the disease. The University of Nottingham's research into work attitudes to sun safety in the construction sector found that two thirds of construction workers outside for an average of nearly seven hours a day thought they were not at risk or were unsure if they were.

More than half (59%) of those questioned by researchers reported having sunburn – a major contributor to skin cancer – at least once in the last year.

Businesses are being urged to develop ‘sun safety strategies’ that include regular updates on the UV index from weather forecasts, minimising sun exposure in the middle of the day and asking employees to wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers.

“We’ve a clear picture for the UK now of the number of people diagnosed with or dying from skin cancer because of sun exposure at work,” commented IOSH executive director of policy Shelley Frost.

“It’s a terrible disease but with some simple measures we can ensure people who work outside are not exposed to the solar radiation that causes it. Work-related skin cancer is avoidable but businesses and their employees hold the key to beating it and today we are showing them how it can be done,” she added.

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