Solar UV Radiation

About Solar UV Radiation

The sun is the main natural source of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The potential for solar UV exposure varies based on geography, the season, time of day, and weather. In Canada, UV levels are generally highest from 11 am to 3pm between April and September.

Solar UV radiation causes melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, although long-term occupational exposure is more strongly linked to non-melanoma skin cancer [1]. Exposure can also cause eye cancer, as well as sunburns, heat stress, and cataracts.

CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 1.5 million Canadians are exposed to solar radiation at work [2].

Burden of Cancer Results

Approximately 4560 non-melanoma skin cancers are due to occupational solar radiation exposure each year, based on 2011 cancer statistics [3]. This amounts to 6.3% of all non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed annually. The cost of these cancers is approximately $34.2 million [4].

Most occupational solar UV-related cancers occur among workers in the agriculture and construction sectors (see pie chart).

Exposure Reduction

Requiring all workplaces that employ outdoor workers to develop a comprehensive, multi-component sun safety program can help reduce exposure to solar UV.  Sun Safety at Work Canada provides resources on how small and large workplaces can develop and implement sun safety programs to address both skin cancer and heat stress. Some of the steps that can be taken include providing shade, scheduling outdoor activities outside of peak UV hours, and wearing wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves and pants, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Burden Resources

Fact Sheets

Research Articles

Related OCRC Web Resources


  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs Volume 100D: Radiation (2012).
  2. CAREX Canada. Solar UV Radiation Occupational Exposures.
  3. Peters CE, Kim J, Song C, Heer E, Arrandale VH, Pahwa M, Labrèche F, McLeod CB, Davies HW, Ge CB, Demers PA. Burden of non-melanoma skin cancer attributable to occupational sun exposure in CanadaInt Arch Occup Environ Health. 2019 July.
  4. Mofidi A, Tompa E, Spencer J, Kalcevich C, Peters CE, Kim J, Song C, Mortazavi S, Demers PA.The Economic Burden of Occupational Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Due to Solar RadiationJ Occup Environ Hyg 2018 Jun;15(6):481-491.