Climate change and skin cancer and the potential SunSmart (Cornwall, United Kingdom)
The Climate Challenge
The county of Cornwall in southwest England, UK has a maritime climate and is expected to be 2 to 3 °C warmer than now in both winter and summer by 2050-2080. Due to the increase in temperatures, it is also likely that individual exposure to UV radiation will also increase and therefore the risk of developing skin cancer. The south west of England currently experiences the highest incidence of both malignant and non-malignant melanoma in the UK.
Although there are no specific figures for Cornwall, exposure is likely to be high given its draw as a holiday destination. The complex interactions between cloud cover, ozone depletion and higher UV levels are difficult to project but some studies tentatively suggested summer UV irradiance will increase in the southern parts of the UK to approximately 12 Wm-2 and/or a slight increase in current UV flux, up to 10% by the end of the century.
The Adaptation Response
The SunSmart programme involved a range of actions to increase awareness of the risks of skin cancer and sun exposure and is part of a series of public health campaigns to deliver messages regarding individual risk of UV exposure, particularly in the summer months. The SunSmart campaign included research, public communication, policy development and stakeholder interaction to try to reduce the levels of skin cancer. This measure ran from 2003 to 2011.
The people and institutions involved
The Cornwall Council was responsible for the initial scoping of this work as part of risk assessment for climate change impacts.
The Outcome of Action
One key difficulty for campaigns is evidencing the outcomes – there is good evidence on knowledge outcomes but whether knowledge leads to behaviour change in terms of avoiding skin cancer risk is less obvious. Some previous campaigns have achieved significant awareness raising and behaviour outcomes (e.g. in Australia). An additional limiting factor at present is knowledge of the precise climate-skin cancer link. Further work is needed in this area.
Tim Taylor, European Centre for Environment and Climate Change, University of Exeter Medical School
The full report of this case study can be read here.
Photo © Fotolia / Kalafoto