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7 ways to prevent skin cancer

Farm and Garden: Wearing sunscreen, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat are a few methods to prevent skin damage from the sun.

May 19, 2023

2 Min Read
woman wearing wide brimmed hat in wheat field
SUN PROTECTION: A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are among the ways to protect your skin from sun damage in the garden and the field. portishead1/Getty Images

by Ellen Duysen

What types of sun protection are best to protect myself from skin cancer when I’m out working in my yard and garden? Sun protection is important to discuss as we head out to work in our gardens, flower beds, in the woods and farm fields.

Anyone, regardless of skin color, who spends time in the sun without the proper protection may develop skin cancer. Think about a tan as a warning sign that UV radiation has injured your skin, and that this damage can lead to skin cancer.

There are many ways to prevent skin damage from the sun. Some of these include:

Limit your exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. These are the hours when the sun is most intense. Plan your gardening or work early in the morning to avoid the sun's powerful rays.

Wear long sleeves and pants made of cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics. Choose light-colored clothing to reflect the sun's rays. Remember to protect your feet from the sun as well. Wearing closed-toed shoes will not only prevent sunburn, but injury from garden and farming tools.

Wear a broad-brimmed hat. A hat with a ventilated band or a tightly woven straw hat is a great choice. Both will allow some air movement through the hat to cool your head. Avoid ball caps as they expose your neck and ears to the sun.

Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above to all exposed skin. Zinc oxide is a good choice for people who may have allergic reactions to ingredients in other sunscreens. Read the label and follow the instructions on reapplying. If you are sweating heavily or your skin is wet, you may need to apply more often. Sunscreens don't filter out all harmful UV radiation, so it is essential to use all the prevention methods.

Remember your lips. Use a sunblock product that has been specially formulated to protect lips and has an SPF factor of 20 or more.

Eyes can get sunburned. Wear sunglasses that provide UV protection. Wraparound sunglasses are a great choice.

Check your prescriptions and skin care products to see if they may increase the risk of UV damage to your skin. Extra precautions need to be taken with certain medications.

Establishing a habit of protecting your skin and eyes from the sun will provide the long-term benefit of a reduced risk of skin cancer and eye damage. Happy gardening!

Duysen is the coordinator of University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH).

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