A €3.5m (£3m) three-year European Commission grant has been awarded to scientists at King’s College London to investigate the effect of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels on human health.
The research, headed by Prof Antony Young of St John’s Institute of Dermatology at King’s College London, involves eight research groups in six European countries: Austria, Denmark, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The research team comprises an inter-disciplinary mix of photobiologists, dermatologists, immunologists, epidemiologists, molecular biologists, climatologists and experts in UVR measurement and radiative transfer modelling.
Most work on the effects of UVR on human health has been based on indirect estimates of UVR exposure, for example latitude or ambient UVR exposure, which results in a large measure of uncertainty. But no data has been previously collected that relates personal UVR exposure to damaged health.
A major part of the work will involve the measurement of personal UVR exposure using electronic UV sensors that will be incorporated into wristwatches.
Data on the personal UVR measurements and their relationship to health will start to come on stream within the first 12 months of the project.
The news of the research grant comes just days after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) moved sunbeds, or UV tanning beds, up to its highest cancer risk category, or ‘carcinogenic to humans’. The use of sunlamps and sunbeds was previously classified as only ‘probably carcinogenic’ to humans.
The agency said in a statement that a comprehensive analysis concluded that the risk of skin melanoma increased by 75 per cent when tanning devices were used by individuals under 30 years of age. Several cases also provided evidence of a positive association between the use of UV-emitting tanning devices and ocular melanoma.