Metal arc welding and the risk of skin cancer

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OBJECTIVES: Arc welding produces the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation and may be a contributory cause of skin cancer; however, there has been little research into this occupational hazard. The aim of this study is to explore if metal arc welding increases the risk of malignant melanoma and/or basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) on skin areas which may possibly be exposed (neck, head, and upper extremities).

METHOD: A Danish national company-based historic cohort of 4333 male metal arc welders was followed from 1987 through 2012 to identify the risk of skin cancer. An external reference group was established including all Danish skilled and unskilled male workers with similar age distribution. Occupational histories were gathered by questionnaires in 1986 and information about skin cancer diagnoses [BCC, SCC, cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM), and precancerous conditions, actinic keratosis (AK)] were gathered from the Danish Cancer Registry supplemented by the data from the Danish Pathology Register. Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated in the follow-up period from 1987 until 2012 using Cox regression analysis and adjusted for baseline data regarding age and social group.

RESULTS: The adjusted HR and 95% confidence interval (CI) for skin cancer (all types) were 0.99 (CI 0.94-1.04) for welders. The adjusted HR for AK and BCC located only at neck was 2.49 (CI 1.03-5.99) for welders exposed >20 years (n = 5) and 2.46 (CI 1.02-5.94), respectively, for welders exposed >30 years (n = 5). No statistically significant difference was observed for SCC. The risk of CMM at the neck was also significantly elevated after 30 years of welding, but this is based upon only one exposed case.

CONCLUSION: This study indicates that long-term exposure to metal arc welding may be related to increased risk of BCC and AK located exclusively at the neck. The study provides no support for the hypothesis that welding exposure increases the risk for skin cancer at other locations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)873-881
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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