Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) has been implicated to have significant impacts on human health. Although minimal UVR exposure is required for the production of the essential Vitamin D, excessive UVR exposure can be a significant burden on human health especially on the skin. In fact, skin cancer is the most significant complication of chronic UVR exposure.
A latest study conducted by Roderick Busuttil (Cellular Pathology Department, Mater Dei Hospital), Dr Charles Galdies, Prof Joseph Cacciottolo (Institute of Earth Systems) and Charles Yousif (Institute for Sustainable Energy) evaluated the knowledge, perceptions and behaviour of the Maltese population regarding UVR exposure and sun protection attitudes. This study also assessed whether the published Global Solar Ultraviolet Index (UVI) forecasts by the national weather service are an accurate representation of the actual local UVR exposure. An analysis of long-term trends in the incidence of skin cancer in Malta was also carried out.
The results have been published in a Springer Book series dedicated to Climate Services. They reveal high local awareness levels of the UVI tool (96%) and its daily follow-up during the summer months (72%), as well as its understanding (74%).Notwithstanding this, 79% of the respondents stated sun exposure during sun peak hours in summer. These findings demonstrated that a high awareness of the UVI concept is not being translated into increased sun protection practices notwithstanding that the study population is highly knowledgeable with regard to the negative impacts of excessive sun exposure. This could be partly attributed to the lack of exploitation of the UVI concept in these campaigns.
This study also established that the published UVI forecasts published daily by the MET Office are in agreement with the ground based integrated erythemally-weighted ultraviolet radiation (UVER) data. In fact, 81% of locally published UVI forecasts were within ± 1 UVI unit when compared to UVER data. Nevertheless, in 27% of the cases the Forecast UVI was lower than UVER data, the implication of which could be significant especially when the magnitude of the discrepancy is of 1 UVI or more. This is particularly relevant when the divergence occurs at the high end categories of the UVI (6+) especially in the summer months where additional sun protection mechanisms are necessary.
Furthermore, worrying increasing trends in the reported cases of all skin cancer types over the past two decades were also noted.
This study also demonstrated the importance for better focused sun protective campaigns and the relevance of a practical and easily communicable UVI concept using modern media applications so as to address the worrying situation of an ever-increasing trend in skin cancer incidence.
Readers are encouraged to refer to refer to the entire study by accessing the new SPRINGER book.