Outdoor workers three times more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer after five years of outdoor work

Ballerup, Denmark, 21 March 2016 - In light of new research, which shows that after five years outdoor workers are three times more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and actinic keratosis (AK) than non-outdoor workers,1 a leading group of skin experts is calling for official recognition of these diseases as occupational diseases. A consensus report, authored by the group, has just been published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.2

The consensus report, supported by an unrestricted educational grant by LEO Pharma, highlights evidence that a wide variety of people who work outdoors, such as farmers, construction workers, and even police officers, are at an increased risk of developing NMSC and AK2. The report calls for action to protect outdoor workers from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun via both primary and secondary prevention measures, including education and screening.2

Exposure to UV is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) as a group one carcinogen – meaning it is the highest risk factor for developing skin cancer, both mela-noma and non-melanoma types.3,4 This is a clear recognition for the WHO of the causality of UV exposure leading to an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Outdoor workers are exposed to 2-3 times more UV exposure than the average person,3 yet there is currently no international recognition that sunlight is an occupational hazard for outdoor workers.

Kim Domela Kjøller, Executive Vice President for Global Research and Development at LEO Pharma says: “This report gives us new insights into the importance of preventing NMSC and AK for outdoor workers. We believe this is an important step to prevent, treat and manage the early precursors of skin cancer, which is critical to help us halt the dis-ease in its tracks.”

Myrto Trakatelli, dermatologist at Aristotle University, Greece and St. Pierre Hospital, Brussels, Belgium, and one of the authors of the consensus report comments: “Rates of NMSC are currently increasing3 which combined with the ageing population could cause a major issue across the EU. It’s high time that UV sunlight is treated like any other work-place carcinogen. Employers need to take steps to protect their staff from overexposure to sunlight and offer regular skin checks through work-based initiatives.”

The report calls for the need for consistent, better reporting of NMSC and AK as occupa-tional diseases. Other recommendations include:

Education for outdoor workers on protecting their skin

Screening programmes for high-risk workers

Standardised measures of sun exposure during working hours 

Improved registration of AK and NMSC in national cancer registries 

The report can be accessed online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jdv.2016.30.issue-S3/issuetoc




1. de Vries E, Trakatelli M, group at E. World Congress of Dermatology. Vancouver, Canada, 2015.

2. John SM, et al. J Eur Dermatol Venereol. 2016 (Suppl. 3), 38-45

3. IARC. Solar and ultraviolet radiation (Vol 55). Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Lyon. International Agency for Research on Can-cer, Press, 1992.

4. Cogliano VJ, et al. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011;103; 1827-1839




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