Global call to action to end the non-melanoma skin cancer epidemic in outdoor workers

Global call to action to end the non-melanoma skin cancer epidemic in outdoor workers
© iStock/milanvirijevic

Discover the organizations that are calling for the implementation of a systematic approach to addressing the Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer epidemic.

Seven co-hosting organizations of the Multi-Stakeholder Summit on Occupational Skin Cancer, which took place on 26 April 2019 – in cooperation with patient advocacy groups, workers unions, occupational safety and health professionals, social security representatives, dermatologists and oncologists – call for the implementation of a systematic approach to addressing the Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Epidemic.

Most frequently diagnosed cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is by far the most frequently diagnosed cancer around the globe. It is also one of the most common occupational diseases in Europe and its prevalence continues to increase. For instance, in Germany, it is the third most frequently reported occupational disease. In most countries, it is also the most common occupational cancer. Despite this, victims remain overlooked while prevention efforts, screening and improved access to care are neglected.

A lack of reporting and accurate data on the disease burden has allowed this crisis to remain in the shadows. Outdoor workers in construction and farming industries, recreation and public services may be exposed to solar UV radiation (UVR) for more than 75% of their working hours. UVR is classified by WHO as a group 1 carcinogen. WHO threshold levels are exceeded by five times in many outdoor professions. It is estimated that the risk of developing skin cancer increases significantly – up to more than 100% – with five or
more years of outdoor work. If not detected and prevented at an early stage, NMSC leads to a life-long chronicity with abundant newly forming lesions.

The economic costs of NMSC continue to increase, placing governments and healthcare systems under significant economic pressure and affecting the livelihoods of millions of workers around the world.

Despite this alarming reality, outdoor workers lack legislative protection to ensure adequate prevention measures, diagnosis and effective treatments for this occupational disease globally. For that reason, WHO and ILO are currently assessing the global disease burden of occupational skin cancer within the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 framework.

Global call to action

As outlined in the event, below are the key call to actions that were highlighted:

Policy makers should improve the legislative framework to protect outdoor workers more effectively, and build accessibility for regular screenings and earlier, better treatments. In the European Union, NMSC should be officially recognised as an occupational disease within the next legislative period.

Doctors, other health professionals and policy makers should work together to ensure standardised EU-wide registration of NMSC.

Employers should use tools to quantify exposure levels to UVR in the workplace. They shall also implement cost-effective techniques for sun-safe behaviour and ensure regular skin cancer screenings for outdoor workers.

Doctors and other health professionals should improve reporting of occupational NMSC (including actinic keratosis).

Patient advocacy groups, doctors and other health professionals as well as employers should collaborate to promote skin cancer prevention and sun-safe working practices, and to address the unmet needs of retired outdoor workers with persisting NMSC.

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