Consultant dermatologists in the U.K. have been reporting to EPIDERM, a voluntary surveillance scheme for occupational skin disease, since February 1993; reporting by occupational physicians to the scheme began in May 1994 and was superseded in January 1996 by OPRA (Occupational Physicians Reporting Activity). Currently 244 dermatologists and 790 occupational physicians report incident cases to these schemes. During the 6 years to January 1999 a total of 12,574 new cases of occupational skin disease was estimated from reports by consultant dermatologists and 10,136 cases estimated from occupational physicians (since May 1994). The annual incidence of occupational contact dermatitis using data from both schemes was 12·9 per 100,000 workers. The incidence of contact dermatitis per 100,000 workers increased with age in men from 4·9 (age 16-29 years) to 6·6 (age 45-60 years); in women a higher rate (9·5) was apparent in the younger age group, with lower rates in older female workers. High rates in young workers were associated with wet work and in older workers with exposure to oils. For men, high rates of contact dermatitis were seen in reports from both schemes for chemical operatives, machine tool setters and operatives, coach and spray painters and metal workers. For women, high rates were found for hairdressers, biological scientists and laboratory workers, nurses and those working in catering. The most frequent agents for contact dermatitis were rubber chemicals and materials (14·1% of cases reported by dermatologists), soaps and cleaners (12·7%), nickel (11·9%), wet work (11·1%), personal protective equipment (6·2%), petroleum products (6·3%), cutting oils and coolants (5·6%), and epoxy and other resins (6·1%). In the 1608 estimated cases of skin cancer all but 4% were attributed to ultraviolet radiation. Cases of contact urticaria attributed to latex peaked in 1996, with a decline in cases since that time.
West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, Morgantown, West Virginia