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Cover up: Best protection against skin cancer

Protection from the sun is as easy as covering exposed skin, even on the farm.

Brent Murphree, Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

June 6, 2024

2 Min Read
Bright Sun
Being young and immortal does not protect from solar radiation.titoOnz/Getty Images/iStockphoto

When I was a kid, I couldn’t help but notice how the contract crews that chopped our cotton were usually covered head to toe in garments and hats that covered their skin.

Being young, immortal and stupid we chopped cotton in shorts, sometimes shirtless while the sun beat down in the summer heat. We had no concern for the effects of ultraviolet radiation. Many of us started the season with a hearty sunburn.

Later in high school and college I lifeguarded, coached swimming and worked out with the swim team daily, amplifying my sun exposure with no concern for what it was doing to my skin.

Growing up, my grandfathers were regularly going into the doctor to get spots frozen off their face and arms – they were both farmers. By the time they were in their late 70s, both exhibited the white blotches that come with years of treatment.

I didn’t make the connection. My black Irish skin held a sporty tan, even in the winter months. In my head, it was a sign that I was healthy and active.

I should have taken the example of the field workers whose skin never saw the light of day.

Today, I bear the scars of many dermatologist visits, especially one dynamic wound in the center of my forehead, because I thought I was blessed with tannable skin that would never turn on me.

One day I noticed a spot in the center of my forehead. It was small, as if someone had poked me with a needle. I am a quick healer, but the red spot just wouldn’t go away.

The spot on my forehead was basal cell carcinoma, or as my doctor said, “The best kind of cancer to have.”

When he was through with the Mohs surgery he asked if I wanted to look at the octopus he had removed from my head - it was surprisingly large. I said no.

The Center for Disease Control says that basal cell is the most common type of skin cancer and easily removed if caught early. There are other less common types of skin cancer, but left untreated they can seriously impact the health of the individual.

Farmers, because of the nature of their work and exposure to UV radiation, are at high risk of developing skin cancer, so take steps to lessen your chance of developing the disease.

The American Cancer Society suggests you check your skin often and see a doctor if you see anything that has changed. As a preventative, stay in the shade, cover up and slap on sunscreen – mostly be mindful of your exposure.

The senior editor of Southeast Farm Press has also gone through a bout of skin cancer and shared his experience in a podcast – Baring it all for a good cause - and commentary - Still stand naked for a good reason.

Read more about:

Skin Cancer

About the Author(s)

Brent Murphree

Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

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