Radon causes skin cancer?

Can’t wait to buy anti-radon skin protection products.

From a Peninsula University media release:

Suggested link between radon and skin cancer

A new study published this week suggests that a link may exist between radon exposure and non-melanoma skin cancer

Researchers from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health (part of the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry) have detected a connection following analysis of data on radon exposure and skin cancer cases from across southwest England. The study, which looked at small geographical areas across Devon and Cornwall, builds upon a similar study conducted 15 years ago.

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas found in soil and bedrock common in parts of the southwest. It has been recognised as a minor contributor to cases of lung cancer, but so far there has been no firm evidence to suggest it has wider health implications.

Whilst both radon levels and skin cancer incidence in the southwest are amongst the highest in the UK, the study found no association between household radon levels and malignant melanoma, or the most common form of skin cancer basal cell carcinoma. However, a link was found between areas where high radon concentrations are found and a particular type of non-melanoma skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

The analysis took account of the way population characteristics, exposure to sunshine and proximity to the coast vary across the region. However, the researchers highlighted people’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun as a particularly difficult factor to account for, especially as this represents an important risk factor for developing skin cancer.

Despite the limitations of the study, researchers feel it is an important area needing further investigation. Lead author of the study, Dr Ben Wheeler said

“We know that naturally occurring radon is a contributing factor to a small proportion of lung cancers, but there is limited evidence of other health implications. These findings suggest that the issue of radon and skin cancer deserves a much closer look and we’re planning to develop a more detailed study capable of detecting a direct relationship, if one actually exists”.

Below is the abstract for the study. It is just more weak association epidemiology nonsense.

Background: Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is a carcinogen that causes a small proportion of lung cancers among exposed populations. Theoretical models suggest that radon may also be a risk factor for skin cancer, but epidemiologic evidence for this relationship is weak. In this study, we investigated ecologic associations between environmental radon concentration and the incidence of various types of skin cancer.

Methods: We analyzed data for 287 small areas (postcode sectors) in southwest England for the years 2000-2004. Poisson regression was used to compare registration rates of malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma across mean indoor radon concentrations from household surveys. Analyses were adjusted for potentially confounding factors, including age, sex, population socioeconomic status, and mean hours of bright sunshine.

Results: No association was observed between mean postcode sector radon concentration and either malignant melanoma or basal cell carcinoma registration rates. However, sectors with higher radon levels had higher squamous cell carcinoma registration rates, with evidence of an exposure-response relationship. Comparing highest and lowest radon categories, postcode sectors with mean radon >=230 Bq/m3 had registration rates 1.76 (95% confidence interval = 1.46-2.11) times those with mean radon 0-39 Bq/m3. Associations persisted after adjustment for potential confounders.

Conclusions: This ecologic study suggests that environmental radon exposure may be a risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma. Further study is warranted to overcome ecologic design limitations and to determine whether this relationship is generalizable to national and international settings.

Read the Peninsula University media release.

Read the abstract.

One thought on “Radon causes skin cancer?”

  1. It doesn’t say what the association was after the confounders were removed–but it would be substantially lower. 1.76 is fairly low to start with anyway. I have a feeling the whole abstract substantially overstates their case so that for the “further study” that is warranted, the government grant will go to the authors!

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