Did you also know that………?
- Without stratospheric ozone layer shielding the Earth, life on earth would be vulnerable to damage by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, threatening people, food production and ecosystems.
- Ozone-depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosols and cooling, among others, were damaging it, letting through more and more ultraviolet radiation.
Damage to the ozone layer increases the prevalence of skin cancer
- While limited exposure to the sun stimulates the body’s production of vitamin D, excessive solar irradiation causes skin cancer, including cutaneous malignant melanoma and the keratinocyte (non-melanoma) skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and contributes to the development of other rare skin cancers such as Merkel cell carcinoma.
- UV-B radiation also damages the immune systems and the body’s ability to heal and repair itself. By suppressing the efficiency of the immune systems, potentially cancerous tumors are able to take hold and spread.
- Lighter skin is more susceptible to skin cancers (malignant and non-melanoma). The highest incidences are in Australia, followed by New Zealand, Germany, and the Nordic countries.
- The annual health costs of skin cancers are staggering:
- Malignant melanoma: 272 million AUD (2010)
- Keratinocyte cancer: 512 million AUD (2010)
- Malignant melanoma: estimated to increase from 457 million in 2011 to 1.6 billion USD (in 2030)
- Keratinocyte cancer: 4.8 billion USD (2007-2011)
- Sweden around 39 million EUR (2011)
- UK around 109 million GBP (2008)
- South Africa around 14 million USD (2014-2015).
But there is good news…………The ozone layer is recovering
- On realizing that the ozone layer was being damaged, scientists and politicians came together and in 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed.
- Since then, actions taken under the Montreal Protocol have led to a decrease in ozone-depleting substances and the start of the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer.
- Outside the polar regions, upper stratospheric ozone has increased by 1–3 per cent per decade since 2000.
- Northern hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will return to 1980 values by the 2030s. The southern hemisphere will follow in the 2050s and the polar regions by the 2060s.
And the best news of all………. Protecting the ozone layer is good for your health!
- Without the Montreal Protocol, NASA predicts that by 2040, global ozone would have fallen so low, lighter-skinned people would have been sunburnt in about 10 minutes.
- Even though skin cancers are the most expensive cancer in many countries today (cost of malignant melanoma in the USA was around USD 457 million in 2011, projected to increase to USD 1.6 billion by 2030), the cases of skin cancer without the Montreal Protocol would have increased many times over.
- In fact, in the world avoided analysis, it has been estimated that 2 million cases of skin cancer would be avoided per year by 2030 due to the Montreal Protocol.
- Some quantitative estimates in the USA for those born between 1890 and 2100:
- 283 million cases of skin cancer prevented, 8.3 million of which are melanoma cases
- 1.6 million deaths from skin cancer prevented.
For more information on the ozone layer and the work of the Montreal Protocol check out the 20 Q&As on our website.