Study: Radon increases risk of malignant skin cancer

The naturally-occurring radioactive gas radon has been linked to the development of lung cancer.
By Amy Wallace  |  June 16, 2017 at 11:58 AM
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June 16 (UPI) -- New research by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, or TPH, shows that radon gas in the home increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

Switzerland has among the highest mortality rates of malignant melanoma in Europe, and the incidence in both men and women more than doubling in the past 20 years in the country.

Radon comes from granitic and metamorphic rocks and soil, with the level of residential radon exposure varying depending on geological condition and how well the house is sealed against radon vapor intrusion from the soil.

"Our study shows that, when radon decays, radioactive alpha particles not only destroy lung tissue but can also affect the skin. This has rarely been researched in the past," Martin Röösli, a professor for environmental epidemiology at Swiss TPH, said in a press release.

The study, published in the June edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, analyzed 1,900 deaths due to malignant melanoma in people age 20 and older in Switzerland between 2000 and 2008.

Researchers found there was an increased risk of skin cancer mortality in association with higher household radon levels, independent of UV exposure.

"The younger the individual is, the greater the impact of radon on the risk of developing the disease," Röösli said. "The strengths of the Swiss TPH study are that it was a longitudinal analysis of the total population of Switzerland and that the effects of radon were modeled for every single household."

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