Canadian Study Explores the Economic Burden of Workplace Sun Exposure and Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Key Points

  • Using a range of secondary sources, including official government records and health surveys, researchers revealed the true economic burden of nonmelanoma skin cancers—$34.6 million (in 2011 Canadian dollars).
  • These costs were made up of a range of lifetime costs, including health-care treatment, the impact of time away from work, out-of-pocket expenses, and poor life quality.
  • The cost per patient was $5,760 per case for basal cell carcinoma and $10,555 per case for squamous cell carcinoma.

A study by Mofidi et al in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene has estimated the total and per-case costs of newly diagnosed nonmelanoma skin cancers in Canada in 2011 caused by workplace sun exposure.

Using a range of secondary sources, including official government records and health surveys, researchers revealed the true economic burden of nonmelanoma skin cancers—$34.6 million (in 2011 Canadian dollars). These costs were made up of a range of lifetime costs, including health-care treatment, the impact of time away from work, out-of-pocket expenses, and poor life quality.

Additional Findings

Further analyses highlighted the sizable cost per patient for the two most common types of nonmelanoma skin cancer: basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The figure stood at $5,760 per case for basal cell carcinoma and $10,555 per case for squamous cell carcinoma.

One of the few cancers that are increasing in incidence, skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in Canada and other countries with large fair-skinned populations. Roughly 1 in 10 Canadian workers are exposed to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation at work, and the majority of these workers spend 6 hours or more outdoors each day.

With solar UV radiation the main cause of skin cancer, the researchers hope that their landmark findings can persuade policymakers to give greater attention to reducing workplace sun exposure—both within and outside of Canada. The occupations deemed most at risk—construction, farming, and landscaping—are not exclusive to Canada.

The study's principal investigator, Emile Tompa, PhD, a senior scientist at Canada's Institute for Work & Health, commented, “The findings suggest that policymakers might give greater priority to reducing sun exposure at work by allocating occupational cancer prevention resources accordingly. The results can also raise awareness among policymakers, employers, unions, and workers about the significant contribution of workplace sun exposure to skin cancers. These groups can now make a strong cost-benefit argument for inexpensive exposure reduction interventions, such as shade structures, hats and loose clothing, sunscreen, and shift scheduling to reduce the amount of time workers spend in the sun.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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