Working under the sun causes 1 in 3 deaths from non-melanoma skin cancer, say WHO and ILO

Nov. 9, 2023
From this research, WHO calls for more action to protect workers from hazardous outdoor work in the sunlight.

Nearly 1 in 3 deaths from non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by working under the sun, according to joint estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The research released in Environment International finds that outdoor workers carry a large and increasing burden of non-melanoma skin cancer and calls for action to prevent this serious workplace hazard and the loss of workers’ lives it causes.

According to the joint estimates, 1.6 billion people of working age (15 years or older) were exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation while working outdoors in 2019, equivalent to 28% of all working-age people. In 2019 alone, almost 19 000 people in 183 countries died from non-melanoma skin cancer due to having worked outdoors in the sun. The majority (65%) were male.

The estimates establish occupational exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation as the work-related risk factor with the third highest attributable burden of cancer deaths globally. Between 2000 and 2019, skin cancer deaths attributed to occupational exposure to sunlight almost doubled (increasing by 88% from 10 088 deaths in 2000 to 18 960 deaths in 2019).

WHO, ILO, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program recently launched the SunSmart Global UV App that outdoor workers can use to estimate their exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation.

WHO release