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Prevalence of Exposure to Solar Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) on the Job in Canada

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Over one third of all newly diagnosed cancers in Canada in 2010 were skin cancer, despite the fact that skin cancer is largely preventable by limiting ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure. Outdoor workers are at risk of exposure to UVR, yet the prevalence of exposure in Canada is unknown. The objective of this study was to estimate the number of outdoor workers in Canada.


Building on CAREX Canada methods, we used a combination of data in the original Finnish CAREX, an Australian skin cancer prevention workbook, career-selection websites, and published studies to flag jobs at high risk of exposure. We also created a category for moderate exposure, where workers were unlikely to spend their whole day outside. Adjustments were made for industry-driven exposure, and prevalence of exposure was assigned for all jobs. Prevalence data were linked to census data to derive the number of workers exposed to solar UVR.


Over 1.5 million Canadian workers are exposed to solar UV at work, and approximately 897,000 of these were flagged as “high exposed” (outdoors >-75% of the workday). The largest occupational groups were farmers, construction labourers, and landscapers. Proportions of the workforce exposed ranged by province, with 6.9% of workers exposed in Ontario, and up to 1 7.3% in Prince Edward Island.


Information on solar UVR exposure prevalence is needed for primary skin cancer prevention with regard to targeting of high-risk groups, priority setting, and better risk assessment. This study showed that solar UVR exposure is occurring on a large scale in Canada.



Plus du tiers des cancers nouvellement diagnostiqués au Canada en 201 0 étaient des cancers de la peau, malgré le fait que ce cancer est en grande partie évitable en limitant l’exposition aux rayons ultraviolets (RUV). Les travailleurs en plein air sont particulièrement exposés aux RUV, et pourtant la prévalence de l’exposition au Canada est inconnue. L’objectif de notre étude était d’estimer le nombre de travailleurs en plein air au Canada.


En faisant fond sur les méthodes de CAREX Canada, pour identifier les emplois à risque élevé d’exposition nous avons utilisé, en combinaison, les données originales de CAREX Finlande, un cahier australien sur la prévention du cancer de la peau, des sites Web de sélection de carrière et des études publiées. Nous avons aussi créé une catégorie d’exposition modérée pour les travailleurs peu susceptibles de passer toute la journée dehors. Nous avons apporté des ajustements pour tenir compte des expositions venant de l’industrie et affecté une prévalence d’exposition à chaque emploi. Les données de prévalence ont été maillées aux données du Recensement pour calculer le nombre de travailleurs exposés aux RUV solaires.


Plus d’un million et demi de Canadiens et de Canadiennes sont exposés aux RUV solaires au travail, et environ 897 000 sont «très exposés» (passent >-75 % de la journée de travail à l’extérieur). Les plus grands groupes de professions étaient les agriculteurs et les agricultrices, les ouvriers et les ouvrières du bâtiment, et les paysagistes. Par province, la proportion de la main-d’œuvre exposée était de 6,9 % en Ontario et atteignait 1 7,3 % à l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard.


Il faudrait plus d’information sur la prévalence de l’exposition aux RUV solaires pour prévenir le cancer primaire de la peau en ciblant les groupes fortement exposés, en établissant des priorités et en améliorant l’évaluation du risque. Notre étude montre que l’exposition aux RUV solaires est présente à grande échelle au Canada.

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Correspondence to Cheryl E. Peters MSc.

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Peters, C.E., Nicol, AM. & Demers, P.A. Prevalence of Exposure to Solar Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) on the Job in Canada. Can J Public Health 103, 223–226 (2012).

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