A new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that outdoor workers are at a significantly increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), with nearly one in three deaths attributed to prolonged sun exposure.
The study, published in the journal Environment International, found that 1.6 billion individuals of working age were exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation while working outdoors in 2019, constituting 28% of the global workforce. During the same year, 18,960 people across 183 countries died from NMSC due to occupational sun exposure, marking an 88% increase from 2000.
NMSC is the most common form of skin cancer and is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Outdoor workers are at increased risk of NMSC because they are exposed to UV radiation for longer periods of time.
The study found that occupational exposure to solar UV radiation is now identified as the third-highest contributor to global cancer deaths, following asbestos and silica dust.
The WHO and ILO are calling on governments, employers, and workers to take action to protect outdoor workers from NMSC. They recommend implementing policies that provide shade, adjust working hours away from solar noon, offer education and training, and equip workers with protective measures such as sunscreen and clothing.