Skin cancer as an occupational disease



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Skin cancer can be recognized as an occupational disease

Skin cancer can be recognized as an occupational disease under certain conditions. This applies to people who have been exposed to the sun for many years while working and suffer from actinic keratosis - a precursor to white skin cancer - or squamous cell carcinoma. This is announced by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV).

Under certain conditions, skin cancer can be recognized as an occupational disease. In order for an illness to be recognized as an occupational disease, it must be scientifically proven that certain occupational groups have a higher risk of the disease than the rest of the population. This proof has now been confirmed in the case of certain skin cancers by the medical advisory board "occupational diseases" at the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinomas can therefore be recognized as occupational diseases if the person has been exposed to the sun for many years while working. Because direct sunlight causes skin damage that can subsequently develop into skin cancer.

A further prerequisite for the recognition of skin cancer as an occupational disease is a reliable diagnosis for "squamous cell carcinoma" or "multiple actinic keratosis". For example, individual actinic keratoses are not considered to be occupational diseases. In addition, the affected skin areas must be exposed to the sun for many years and must not have been covered by clothing. An occupational disease can only be recognized if the additional work-related exposure to sunlight is at least 40 percent. For 50-year-olds, this corresponds to around 15 years of full-time work outdoors, for 60-year-olds it is around 18 years. The skin type doesn't matter.

Skin cancer has not yet been officially included in the list of occupational diseases. Most of those affected are employed in agriculture, handicrafts, construction, at sea or professional groups such as lifeguards. Although skin cancer has not yet been included in the occupational disease list, the accident insurance funds and professional associations can act in the same way as for an occupational disease for actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma. "As a legislator, the federal government is now required to quickly add to the list of occupational diseases," says DGUV general manager Dr. Joachim Breuer.

First and foremost, it is about the cost of medical treatment. Insured persons usually do not have to pay anything for this in the statutory accident insurance fund. If there is any suspicion that there is a connection between skin cancer and professional activity, the company doctor or treating doctor should be informed, advises the DGUV. The latter will then make a suspicious transaction report to the statutory accident insurance company.

White skin cancer has good chances of being cured To date, only actinic keratoses or squamous cell carcinoma have been recognized as occupational diseases. For other skin cancers such as melanoma and basalioma, there is currently no scientific knowledge regarding a work-related relationship.

Actinic keratoses or squamous cell carcinoma belong to the so-called white skin cancer, which usually has good chances of recovery if treated early. Actinic keratoses include flaky skin changes due to UV radiation, which according to the European Skin Cancer Foundation (ESCF) develop into light skin cancer in about ten percent of cases.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a malignant skin cancer that affects the upper layers of the skin, the so-called epithelium. It is the second most common malignant skin tumor in humans. Both actinic keratoses and squamous cell carcinoma preferentially occur on skin areas that are directly exposed to the sun. This includes the face, neck, décolleté and back of the hands. Most of the time, those affected are 50 years and older when the disease appears. (ag)

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