Solar Radiation Exposure and Outdoor Work: An Underestimated Occupational Risk

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Sep 20;15(10):2063. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15102063.


A considerably high number of outdoor workers worldwide are constantly exposed for the majority of their working life to solar radiation (SR); this exposure is known to induce various adverse health effects, mainly related to its ultraviolet (UV) component. The skin and the eye are the principal target organs for both acute and long-term exposure. Actinic keratosis, non-melanoma skin cancers, and malignant melanoma are the main long-term adverse skin effects, whereas in the eye pterygium, cataracts, and according to an increasing body of evidence, macular degeneration may be induced. Despite this, SR exposure risk is currently undervalued, if not neglected, as an occupational risk factor for outdoor workers. SR exposure is influenced by various environmental and individual factors, and occupation is one of the most relevant. For a better understanding of this risk and for the development of more effective prevention strategies, one of the main problems is the lack of available and adequate methods to estimate SR worker exposure, especially long-term exposure. The main aims of this review were to provide a comprehensive overview of SR exposure risk of outdoor workers, including the UV exposure levels and the main methods recently proposed for short-term and cumulative exposure, and to provide an update of knowledge on the main adverse eye and skin effects. Finally, we also outline here preventive interventions to reduce occupational risk.

Keywords: cataract; macular degeneration; occupational exposure; outdoor work; skin cancers; solar radiation; ultraviolet radiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*

Supplementary concepts

  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant