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Some outdoor workers more at risk of skin cancer

Study shows prevention efforts should be targeted to the profession

Posted June 15, 2018

A new study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology identifies outdoor professions that have higher risks for developing non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation is the main risk factor for developing NMSC, and certain professions require more exposure to the sun than others.

NMSC is the most common cancer around the world, and several countries recognize it as an occupational disease for outdoor workers including Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Romania.

The cross-sectional study of 563 participants compared 348 outdoor workers to 215 indoor workers. The outdoor workers were divided as follows:

  • Farmers (39 percent)
  • Gardeners (35 percent) and
  • Mountain guides (26 percent).

NMSC was diagnosed in 33.3 percent of the mountain guides, 27.4 percent of the farmers, 19.5 percent of gardeners, and 5.6 percent of the indoor workers.

In addition, the study found major differences in the skin cancer screening rates, with 61.4 percent of indoor workers being screened for NMSC. Mountain guides were screened at 57.8 percent, but farmers and gardeners were screened at a much lower rate: 31.9 percent and 26.6 percent respectively.

Most mountain guides (98.9 percent) reported using sunscreen on a daily basis while only 55.6 percent of farmers admitted to using sunscreen. Wearing sun protective clothing during work was reported by only a small percent of outdoor professions (11.9-22.8 percent), but most outdoor workers said they wore a hat (56.3-74.4 percent).

According to the researchers, the study shows prevention efforts should be tailored to the individual needs of each profession. Occupations that require more time spent in the sun or at higher altitudes will require more sun protection than those that call for sitting behind a desk.

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