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Skin cancer: Scout and treatSkin cancer: Scout and treat

Just as farmers and ranchers scout and care for their crops and livestock, dermatologists urge them to care for their skin. Wear sunscreen and conduct self-checks. It could save your life.

Shelley E. Huguley

June 2, 2023

3 Min Read
Jason and Ashley Sturgeon, skin cancer awareness
Lubbock County, Texas, cotton producer Jason Sturgeon with his wife and dermatologist, Dr. Ashley Sturgeon. Dr. Sturgeon stresses the importance of self-checks and reapplying sunscreen.Shelley E. Huguley

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. And although it’s June, it’s never too late to talk about skin cancer and the importance of wearing sunscreen. As producers, their employees and all those who work outside on behalf of agriculture head to the fields, stop and apply before you drive.  

I often consult with Lubbock, Texas, dermatologist and farmer’s wife, Ashley Sturgeon, Dermatology Associates of West Texas, formerly known as Paulger and Wisniewski Dermatolgy. Her husband farms in Lubbock County and while he’s in the fields growing cotton, she’s in the office evaluating people’s skin.  

Dr. Sturgeon said it’s important to apply sunscreen to obvious places like the face, neck, tops of arms… anywhere exposed to direct sunlight. But she also reminds producers to apply it to the tops of their hands and ears, tip and corners of the nose -- places that often get overlooked.  

"The sneakiest skin cancers happen behind the ears and surprisingly in the corners of the nose. I always check my farmers for scaly spots," Sturgeon said in a 2022 Farm Press interview.  

Dr. Sturgeon said reapplication, not necessarily SPF, is key. "A lot of the talk over SPF is marketing. What the American Academy of Dermatology said is you need an SPF 30 or better. So, I do 30. I don't think you need more. If you put on SPF 80, that doesn't mean you don’t have to reapply." 

Related:Producers urged to check skin before season gets busy

She recommends making an application first thing in the morning and then every two hours throughout the day for continuous protection. 

Long sleeve shirts also are beneficial. Jason and my farmer wear thin fishing/outdoor shirts. “They're moisture wicking and have an UPF of 50 woven in, so when you're wearing them not much sun is going to get through." 

Self-checks followed by annual skin-checks by a dermatologist are important as well. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You don't want to grow a big skin cancer on your arm and then I have to put stitches in, and you can't lift anything over 15 pounds for two weeks in the middle of planting or harvest." Take time now. It could save your life.   

“You hear about melanoma being deadly and horrible and it certainly is, but if you catch it early a simple procedure could cure it. Once a month, check over your skin to make sure nothing is growing or changing and report any unusual behavior to a dermatologist immediately.” 

My farmer is red-headed and fair-skinned. He’s been in the sun his whole life. In fact, the first tractor he drove didn’t have a covered cab. After I first interviewed Dr. Sturgeon, he attended a free skin-check she held. He’s been making bi-annual visits ever since. He’s had several spots burned off and a couple removed and biopsied. I’m thankful these appointments are a priority.  

Related:Still stand naked for a good reason

Producers spend a lot of time and resources protecting their crops. Don’t you think your skin deserves the same attention? Scouting and treating your skin could save your life. 

Read more about:

Skin CancerMelanoma

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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