July 26, 2006

Sun kills 60,000 a year, WHO says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As many as 60,000 people a year die
from too much sun, mostly from malignant skin cancer, the World
Health Organization reported on Wednesday.

It found that 48,000 deaths every year are caused by
malignant melanomas, and 12,000 by other kinds of skin cancer.
About 90 percent of such cancers are caused by ultraviolet
light from the sun.

Radiation from the sun also causes often serious sunburn,
skin aging, eye cataracts, pterygium -- a fleshy growth on the
surface of the eye, cold sores and other ills, according to the
report, the first to detail the global effects of sun exposure.

"We all need some sun, but too much sun can be dangerous --
and even deadly. Fortunately, diseases from UV such as
malignant melanomas, other skin cancers and cataracts are
almost entirely preventable through simple protective
measures," Dr. Maria Neira, Director for Public Health and the
Environment at WHO, said in a statement.

Ultraviolet light is needed to activate production of
vitamin D in the body, which prevents rickets, osteomalacia and
osteoporosis. It may also affect some cancers and immune

The report, available on the Internet at
http://www.who.int/uv, advises that people seek shade, use
sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and stay out of tanning

"The application of sunscreens should not be used to
prolong sun exposure but rather to protect the skin when
exposure is unavoidable," the report advises.

Snow, sand and sea foam reflect ultraviolet light, the
report notes, and thinning ozone filters out less and less of

"Ultraviolet radiation can neither be seen nor felt," the
study noted. Time of day, latitude and cloud cover all affect
the amount of radiation reaching the ground.

"A person's skin type is also important. Fair skinned
people suffer from sunburn much more readily than dark-skinned
people," WHO said in a statement.

But it detailed ill effects from too much sun around the
globe, especially cataracts in Africa, Latin America, the
Middle East and Southeast Asia.