LEICESTER, England, April 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
The number of people in the UK diagnosed with or dying from the deadliest form of skin cancer because of sun exposure at work is revealed in the findings of a new study published today (23 April 2015).
Commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the research has given businesses the first full picture of the skin cancer burden on those working outdoors in industries as diverse as construction, agriculture and leisure and entertainment.
It is estimated 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, according to the research by Imperial College London.
Combining the findings with a recent study by Imperial College into work-related non-melanoma skin cancer nationwide, we now know as many as five people a day on average in the UK are being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer contracted at work.
Publication of the study, at a cross-industry event in London today, came as a separate research project commissioned by IOSH found a lack of awareness of the risks of solar, or ultraviolet, radiation (UVR) in the industry hardest hit by the disease.
The University of Nottingham 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 per cent) of those questioned by researchers reported having sunburn - a major contributor to skin cancer - at least once in the last year.
Researchers also found a 'macho culture' in some parts of the industry and misconceptions about the threat of UVR in climates like the UK's - cloud cover does not give total protection from solar radiation.
The studies' findings, published as part of IOSH's No Time to Lose campaign to beat work-related cancers, brought a call for increased awareness of skin cancer risks at work and the launch by the Chartered body of new guidance for employers on how to protect their workers.
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. Using high-factor sunscreen is helpful but should not be relied on as the only barrier to the harmful rays, employers are advised.
IOSH executive director of policy Shelley Frost said: "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.
"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."
The research team at Imperial College London examined skin cancer registrations in different industries, comparing their incidence in outdoor workers to people working indoors.
Dr Lesley Rushton, who led the study by Imperial College, said: "Our study is the first to quantify the importance of sun exposure during work time with an estimated one person a week likely to die because of this. It highlights the need for industry to introduce skin protection measures and encourage their workers to use them."
In the UK, it is estimated that 5.5 million people have been exposed to solar radiation through their work - in the service industries, construction sector, manufacturing and agriculture. Latency for the disease varies - melanoma is the most common cause of cancer among young adults.
The studies' findings and new guidance for businesses were published today as industry leaders gathered at an event at the Royal Mail Group Head Office in London to discuss skin cancer risks in industry.
For more information, visit http://www.notimetolose.org.uk
SOURCE Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)