WHO Report Says 60,000 Deaths From UVR Exposure

Posted on August 1, 2006

A report from the World Health Organization called Global Burden of Disease of Solar Ultraviolet Radiation says 60,000 deaths each year are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Of the 60,000 deaths, an estimated 48,000 are caused by malignant melanomas, and 12,000 by skin carcinomas. Information provided by the WHO says there are several cancers and conditions that are caused by UVR exposure. Here is a list of the cancers.
  • Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM): Melanoma of the skin is a malignant cancer of great severity. Although treatment is improving, melanoma still carries a significant risk of death. Between 50% and 90% of the burden of disease from melanoma estimated in the WHO report is due to UVR exposure.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (SCC): This is another type of malignant skin cancer which generally progresses less rapidly than melanoma and is less likely to cause death or ongoing disability. Of the total SCC disease burden, 50-70% is attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Basal cell carcinoma of the skin (BCC): This skin cancer appears predominantly in older people and grows slowly by local spread. The incidence and mortality of BCC were estimated to be 50-90% attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the cornea or conjunctiva (SCCC): This is a rare tumour of the surface of the eye. Some 50-70% of the disease burden due to SCCC is attributable to UVR exposure.
  • The following are conditions listed by the UN as consequence of excess UVR.
  • Photoageing: Chronic sun damage is associated with the development of skin conditions called solar keratoses. On rare occasions, these are pre-malignant conditions. The burden of disease due to solar keratoses is 100% attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Sunburn: Sunburns may be severe and blistering, and the resulting disease burden is 100% attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Cortical cataract: Cataract is an eye disease where the lens becomes increasingly opaque, resulting in impaired vision and eventual blindness. Long-term sun exposure to the eye increases the risk of developing a specific cataract type called cortical cataract. Five percent of all cataract-related disease burden is directly attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Pterygium: This is a wing-shaped fleshy growth on the surface of the eye. 40-70% of the disease burden is attributable to UVR exposure.
  • Reactivation of herpes of the lip (RHL): Excessive UVR exposure causes immunosuppression and reactivation of the herpes simplex virus ("cold sores"). 25-50% of the disease burden is attributable to UV exposure.
  • WHO also provides information the UV Index, a measure of the level of UV radiation. The above conditions and diseases are greate reasons to stay out of the sun. If the threat of skin cancer isn't motivation enough for people to stay out of the sun the WHO report also noted that photoageing is a result of too much UVR exposure.