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Farmers could benefit from skin cancer research results

Farmers could benefit from skin cancer research results

Survey results indicate few farmers take sun-protection measures

National Farm Medicine Center Marshfield Clinic researchers have identified unique characteristics of farmers that can assist providers in caring for this population and also guide development of skin cancer awareness, prevention, and screening initiatives.

Dermatologists Alexandra Carley, M.D., and Erik Stratman, M.D., used data collected during skin cancer screening conducted at the 2011 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Marshfield, Wis. A total of 476 people participated in the study, including 194 farmers.

Dan Meyer wears a long-sleeved shirt while loading seed corn into his planter on May 10, 2008, near Hampshire, Illinois. NFMC also recommends a wide-brimmed hat. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Survey participants were surveyed for self-reported sun protection use, sun exposure, and skin cancer and sun protection beliefs and knowledge. Results are published in the current issue of the Journal of Agromedicine.

Related: It's easy for farmers to ignore or forget to apply protection from the sun's rays

“Farmers have high levels of sun exposure and increased risk of skin cancer,” Carley said.

Although most farmers understand their risk and believe sun-protective behaviors reduce skin cancer risk, Carley said most do not routinely use adequate sun protection. “Our goal was to identify factors that distinguish the farming population from the non-farming population."

Key findings:
• Only 23% of farmers who reported using sunscreen used it “always” or “frequently” when out in the sun 15 minutes-plus
• 34% of farmers and 22% of non-farmers were referred for additional evaluation due to identification of a concerning lesion at the screening event
• Common barriers to sun protection included discomfort with wearing long pants and long shirts, forgetfulness with sunscreen use, and inconvenience with wearing wide-brimmed hats.

The NFMC also recommends that farmers limit their time spent in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and use machinery or equipment with cabs and shades.

For information on how to reduce your skin cancer risk, and tips on other safety and health topics, go to Harvesting Health.

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