Aaron Robertson

PhD researcher Aaron Robertson.

Exploring a cellular and molecular link between radon and skin cancer

European Centre for Environment and Human Health

European Centre for Environment and Human Health PhD student Aaron Robertson is conducting an in vitro investigation into the effects of radon and ultraviolet radiation on human skin and lung cells.

Recent research has identified a potential association between radon concentrations in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and an increased risk of a type of non-melanoma skin cancer. Aaron is identifying if such a link exists.

In a laboratory setting, Aaron has been culturing human cells known to constitute human skin and lung tissue and exposing them to radiation from radon. A novel apparatus has been developed to permit cellular exposure for a variety of cell types. Consequently, the biological significance of radon exposure can be investigated, and initial investigations suggest an increased risk of DNA damage results from laboratory based radon exposure.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the decay of radium, found in uranium rich soils and rocks such as granite. It is responsible for approximately half of the average person’s annual background radiation dose in the UK and, in addition to the identification of radon as a known human lung carcinogen; a recent study has proposed that approximately two per cent of non-melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK may be linked to radon exposure.