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Cancer Epidemiol. 2015 Dec;39 Suppl 1:S75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2014.12.014. Epub 2015 Jun 19.

European Code against Cancer 4th Edition: Ultraviolet radiation and cancer.

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Center of Dermatology, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Elbekliniken Stade/Buxtehude, Am Krankenhaus 1, D-21614 Buxtehude, Germany.
Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC/Section of Cancer Information, Gravendijkwal 230, 3015 CE Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon, France.
School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, FI-33014 Tampere, Finland; STUK - Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Research and Environmental Surveillance, Helsinki, Finland.
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon, France. Electronic address:


Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted naturally from the sun or from artificial sources such as tanning devices. Acute skin reactions induced by UVR exposure are erythema (skin reddening), or sunburn, and the acquisition of a suntan triggered by UVR-induced DNA damage. UVR exposure is the main cause of skin cancer, including cutaneous malignant melanoma, basal-cell carcinoma, and squamous-cell carcinoma. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in fair-skinned populations, and its incidence has increased steeply over recent decades. According to estimates for 2012, about 100,000 new cases of cutaneous melanoma and about 22,000 deaths from it occurred in Europe. The main mechanisms by which UVR causes cancer are well understood. Exposure during childhood appears to be particularly harmful. Exposure to UVR is a risk factor modifiable by individuals' behaviour. Excessive exposure from natural sources can be avoided by seeking shade when the sun is strongest, by wearing appropriate clothing, and by appropriately applying sunscreens if direct sunlight is unavoidable. Exposure from artificial sources can be completely avoided by not using sunbeds. Beneficial effects of sun or UVR exposure, such as for vitamin D production, can be fully achieved while still avoiding too much sun exposure and the use of sunbeds. Taking all the scientific evidence together, the recommendation of the 4th edition of the European Code Against Cancer for ultraviolet radiation is: "Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds."


Adverse effects; Europe; Melanoma; Primary prevention; Skin cancer; Sunburn; Tanning; Ultraviolet light; Ultraviolet radiation

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