Human health in relation to exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation under changing stratospheric ozone and climate†
The Montreal Protocol has limited increases in the UV-B (280–315 nm) radiation reaching the Earth's surface as a result of depletion of stratospheric ozone. Nevertheless, the incidence of skin cancers continues to increase in most light-skinned populations, probably due mainly to risky sun exposure behaviour. In locations with strong sun protection programs of long duration, incidence is now reducing in younger age groups. Changes in the epidemiology of UV-induced eye diseases are less clear, due to a lack of data. Exposure to UV radiation plays a role in the development of cataracts, pterygium and possibly age-related macular degeneration; these are major causes of visual impairment world-wide. Photodermatoses and phototoxic reactions to drugs are not uncommon; management of the latter includes recognition of the risks by the prescribing physician. Exposure to UV radiation has benefits for health through the production of vitamin D in the skin and modulation of immune function. The latter has benefits for skin diseases such as psoriasis and possibly for systemic autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The health risks of sun exposure can be mitigated through appropriate sun protection, such as clothing with both good UV-blocking characteristics and adequate skin coverage, sunglasses, shade, and sunscreen. New sunscreen preparations provide protection against a broader spectrum of solar radiation, but it is not clear that this has benefits for health. Gaps in knowledge make it difficult to derive evidence-based sun protection advice that balances the risks and benefits of sun exposure.
- This article is part of the themed collections: 2019 Perspective article collection and Environmental effects of ozone depletion and its interactions with climate change: 2018 Assessment