Outdoor workers face increased cancer risk

lin-fritschiPerth researchers have completed a comprehensive study into Australian workers and their exposure to Ultra Violet Radiation, which is a known human carcinogen.

The team from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, led by Professor Lin Fritschi (pictured right) found that workers at particular risk of skin cancer were farmers, trades and construction workers, and drivers.

“Solar UV exposure is the leading cause of melanomas, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas,” said Professor Lin Fritschi, “and the workplace is a significant setting for exposure for many Australians.”

The new study has provided comprehensive information about the extent of exposure among  workers in a cross-section of industries, compared with previous studies that concentrated on one industry or job title.

The research found that overall, about 37% of males and 8% of females are exposed to solar radiation at work.  This is about 2 million workers in Australia.  Exposure to solar radiation was more likely among males in lower socio- economic and regional areas.

“Although 95% of the people we spoke to said they used sun protection, the level of protection varied and in reality, less than 9% were fully protected from UV radiation,” Professor Fritschi said.

“Workers also need to be aware that reflective surfaces can also create significant levels of UVR, which is why tradespeople on roofs, near water or next to a glass window in a vehicle are exposed,” she said.

“The exposure information gathered during this study will be crucial for the future planning and prioritisation of strategies to reducing skin cancer risks in the workplace.”

The paper has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.  It was funded by the NHMRC, SafeWork Australia, Cancer Council Australia and Cancer Council WA.

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