Family Health Magazine - MODERN LIVING
Outdoor Workers & Sun Safety
Reduce the risk of skin cancer
Even though skin cancer is highly preventable, it is still the most common kind of cancer diagnosed in many western countries. The amount of time outdoor workers spend in the sun puts them at particular risk. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) light is the major risk factor for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
Stats on Canadian Outdoor Workers
- In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, about a third of people aged 16 to 64 work outdoors in the summer.
- Two-thirds of outdoor workers spend two or more hours a day working in the sun during hours of peak intensity. More than half spend at least another two hours in the sun on leisure days.
- Outdoor workers are more likely than other adults to get sunburned. Only about half use sun protective measures while on the job.
- Outdoor workers in Alberta and the Atlantic regions were found to be the most likely to practice sun safety. Those in Quebec were the least likely.
- Younger outdoor workers are the least likely to protect themselves from the sun.
- Farmers, welders, watermen, police officers, physical education teachers, pilots and cabin attendants all have an increased risk of skin cancer. It is very important for all outdoor workers to take steps to prevent exposure to UVR.
Outdoor workers often work during hours when the sun’s UVR is strongest. Studies show they often do not do enough to protect their skin. Most outdoor workers get sunburned during the summer. Outdoor workers are also more likely to get sunburned compared to the general population. These burns increase the chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and basal cell carcinoma (see cancer stats sidebar). Frequent UVR exposure is the leading cause of squamous cell carcinoma.
If you work outdoors, developing habits to protect yourself from the sun is essential. Male outdoor workers often use protective clothing, while women prefer sunscreen. Either strategy on its own is not enough. Whether you are out in the sun during work or leisure time, guard your skin in as many ways as possible.
Skin cancer stats
- In 2012, an estimated 81,300 Canadians were diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer. About 320 died from it.
- 5,800 were diagnosed with melanoma, and 970 died.
- About 90 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers and two-thirds of melanomas may be linked with excessive UVR exposure.
- As well, UVR has been linked to melanoma of the eye, cataracts, and suppression of the immune (defence) system.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one type of non-melanoma skin cancer. This type must be treated because it can grow aggressively and spread to other areas of the body.
- Another type, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), is rarely fatal. However, it too must be treated to prevent growth, invasion and destruction of surrounding skin tissue, and disfiguring changes in appearance.
- One in seven Canadians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, and outdoor workers are at a 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk than indoor workers.
Skin cancer is largely preventable. Sun safety is key in avoiding surgery, treatments, pain and disfigurement.
- Limit the amount of time spent working in the sun during hours of highest UVR intensity, between 11 am and 4 pm daylight savings time (10 am to 3 pm standard time).
- Seek shade when possible.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses.
- Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip balm that is SPF 30 or higher to all exposed areas of the skin before going outside. Re-apply often.
- Apply sunscreen before insect repellant.
Check your skin
Finding skin cancer at an earlier stage can increase life expectancy and prevent disfiguring changes in appearance. People can be very successful at finding melanoma on their own skin. Check your skin each month. Seek medical attention promptly if you have any suspicious lesions (areas of abnormal tissue change in the skin). A lesion should be examined by a doctor if it has any of the below signs:
- is not symmetrical (the same on both sides)
- has a border that looks irregular or ragged
- is varied in color
- has a diameter greater than six millimetres (roughly the size of a pencil eraser)
- has changed in any way over time (whether that be change in any of the above points, or a change in symptoms, such as a mole that bleeds or has become itchy or tender).
Any sore that does not heal within four weeks should be examined by a physician.
Take the risks associated with sun exposure seriously. Fully protect yourself and your family to lower the risk of skin cancer.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [ML_FHb13]