SHEIKH UMAR AHMAD
Globally, Climate change has accelerated rapidly in the past half century and while international focus has concentrated on the environmental and economic consequences, the effects on human diseases such as skin cancer have been relatively under-represented. The connection between ultraviolet (UV) exposure and the development of malignant skin diseases has long been recognized but is still not completely understood. We all know that there is a direct relation between exposure of UV light on life forms and incidences of skin cancer. Malignant melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer responsible for around 80% of skin cancer related deaths. Over the last 25 years, the reported incidence of malignant melanoma has increased most likely due to over exposure of UV associated visible light coming to earth in wake of ozone depletion.
The Earth receives UV-R from the sun, all of the UV-C and the majority of UV-A and UV-B is filtered out by the ozone layer. Ozone is found mainly in the stratosphere, which is approximately 10–40 km above the Earth’s surface. It is continually being regenerated from O2 through the UV dependent ozone oxygen cycle. Free radicals such as chlorine and bromine atoms shift the cycle to produce more oxygen than ozone depleting the ozone layer.
The emission of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) massively increases the concentration of these free radicals which then leads to the depletion of the ozone layer. Global warming, as it is generally tagged as, is a universal phenomenon leading to climate change that has not left any part of world unscathed. And Kashmir known for its beatific climatic conditions is also victim of this trending change. Moderate climatic conditions prevailing in this part of world has led to biological sensitiveness in the skin of Kashmiris against UV exposure.
This is because the sun here is not so harsh and post exposure effects are found least in Kashmiris within their eco-zone. But if the same people visit other parts of world where temperatures are higher, they develop skin rashes and associated co-morbidities as a mechanism to resist over exposure. If this overexpose persists over a period of time, it leads to photo-aging & subsequent photo-carcinogenesis.
In the recent past, various international treaties and agreements like Montreal Protocol, where many developed and developing nations participated and collaborated to cut down ozone depleting emissions has led to some success. However, nothing significant ensued to pave the way to protect the ozone layer from further deterioration.
It is about time that Climate change is taken seriously. This phenomenon is taking a heavy toll on human health and given that our skin is fragile, we are at receiving end of this change. If the current trend continues the way it is developing, time is not far, when mass epidemics not related to merely skin only, but epidemics at organismal cum community level will come will assume serious proportions. Serious efforts , at the regional, national and international level need to be employed to reduce the environmental emissions threatening ozone’s existence. Even though, the emissions are more intense in developed countries, yet, by virtue of belonging to under – developed countries, we are likely to be worst victims due to improper management strategies and a malfunctioning public health sector.
Ozone depletion and climate change are somewhat different issues but, at the same time are intricately linked. Both have the potential to increase the incidence of skin cancer. Over the last 30 years, ozone depletion has received much global attention, leading to the Montreal Protocol, which was declared by Kofi Annan as ‘perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date’.
However, focus must now shift towards analyzing and assessing multifaceted- personal, social and behavioral- changes that will ensue through climate change. It is time that Global warming, being a universal phenomenon which poses a threat to life, be accorded serious attention before it reaches alarming proportions, especially in this part of the world.
—The can be reached at [email protected]