Swiss study: radon increases the risk of skin cancer
Radon is naturally a component of the atmosphere in small amounts, but it can also occur locally in higher concentrations if the radioactive chemical element is released from the rock or soil on site. Radon exposure is a risk that should not be underestimated for health. It was already known, for example, that this increases the risk of lung cancer. Scientists from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) have now shown that the radioactive gas also increases the risk of malignant skin cancer.
According to the research team led by Professor Martin Röösli from Swiss TPH, the study on domestic radon exposure in Switzerland showed that the natural radioactive gas radon in your own four walls also increases the risk of malignant melanoma (malignant skin cancer). So far, only a connection with an increased risk of lung cancer was known. The researchers published their study results in the journal "Environmental Health Perspectives".
1,900 skin cancer deaths examined
As part of their study, the scientists examined the effects of radon and UV exposure on the mortality rate from malignant skin cancer in Switzerland. A total of 1,900 skin cancer deaths were evaluated that occurred between 2000 and 2008 in people over the age of 20 across Switzerland. The scientists calculated the domestic radon exposure on the basis of data from around 45,000 measurements by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, taking into account the characteristics of the building and the geological condition of the residential area, according to the Swiss TPH.
Skin cancer risk increased by 50 percent in 30-year-olds
According to the researchers, the relative skin cancer risk increased by around 50 percent for every 100 Bq / mᵌ increase in radon exposure in the 30-year-olds and an increase of 16 percent occurred in the 60-year-olds with the same exposure. "The younger the person, the greater the influence of radon on the risk of disease," says Professor Röösli. The current study shows that "radioactive alpha particles can not only damage the lung tissue but also the skin if radon decays." So far, little has been investigated.
Proper construction can reduce domestic stress
"How strong the domestic radon exposure is depends on the geological nature of the environment and how well a house is sealed off from the ground," reports the Swiss TPH. Radon is naturally formed in rock and in the ground. The connection with malignant skin cancer is particularly interesting for Switzerland, since radon is increasingly released in some regions and Switzerland has the third highest rate of malignancy for malignant skin cancer worldwide. The scientists emphasize that Switzerland is well above the central European average. The incidence of malignant skin cancer has more than doubled in the past 20 years. With a suitable design, however, the radon pollution in your own four walls can be greatly reduced. (fp)