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It’s common knowledge to protect your skin while swimming, hiking and enjoying other outdoor activities. But did you know that your job could be putting you at even more risk for skin cancer?
“You’re at risk for sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer if you spend just one hour a day outside,” says Richard Price, M.D., of Price Skin Care Clinic in Ridgeland, Mississippi. “And if you work outside, fly an airplane or sit near an office window all day, you’re at even more risk of harming your skin.”
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the primary risk factor for the development of skin cancer. UVR is classified as a group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The Proof Is In The Numbers
One research report found that those exposed to UVR through their occupation are at almost double the risk of developing a form of skin cancer called ‘cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma’ and are at 43% higher risk for basal cell carcinoma.
Another study performed by the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that not all outdoor professions are equal. Some are riskier than others.
This particular study involved 563 participants, of which 348 were outdoor workers such as farmers, gardeners, mountain guides and 215 were indoor workers.
Non-melanoma skin cancer was diagnosed in the study group as follows:
• 33.3% of the mountain guides
• 27.4% of farmers
• 19.5% of gardeners
• 5.6% of indoor workers.
The study showed that those who worked at higher altitudes and those who spent the most number of hours working outside were at highest risk for skin cancer.
Occupational Hazard Highlights
High-risk occupations that put you at a higher risk for skin cancer include:
• Facilities management
• Broadcast media
• Public safety
• Office work
Studies show that 90% of the skin cancers are a result of the sun’s harmful UVA rays. But for some professions, exposure to the UVA rays is exacerbated by other work-related conditions:
• Length of time and prolonger exposure outdoors
For example, some professions require you to be exposed to UVA rays year-round. Those who work in construction and agriculture often spend all day outdoors for years. And agriculture workers endure longer days during the harvest season, exposing them to even more UVA rays.
• High Altitude
The intensity of UVA rays increase by 15 percent every 900 meters above sea level. This increases the risks for those who work in the mountains as guides, forest rangers and snow ski instructors. Pilots are at twice for skin cancer, due to the combined risk factors of altitude, repeated exposure and the fact that airplane windshields and windows don’t normally offer UBA protection.
• Exposure to UVA Rays Through Windows
Surprisingly, you don’t have to work outside to sustain risks of skin cancer on the job. Those at most risk work near a window for eight hours a day are exposed to harmful UVA rays as if they were working outdoors. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this: just move your desk and chair away from the window, or install blinds or curtains for protection.
• Exposure to UVA Rays While Driving
While the average American spends almost an hour each day behind the wheel of a truck or car, if you drive for your job, you likely spend much more time driving.
The problem with that is that while driving, you are exposing the left side of your body to UVA rays. This puts you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer – especially on you arm, face and neck.
According to research conducted by the St. Louis University School of Medicine, 53 percent of skin cancers in the United States occur on the left side of the body – which means you should take extra precautions to protect your skin while driving.
Those precautions include: apply sunscreen before driving, wear protective clothing and accessories and install UV-protective film on your windows.
Note: for more information about this, see our article ‘Watch Your Left’.
Take Necessary Precautions
If your job requires you to spend prolonged periods of time outdoors, there are some measures you can take to reduce your risk for skin cancer.
• Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Protect the back of your neck with a cloth flap secured under your hat.
• Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after excessive sweating.
• Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect and intensify the harmful UVA sun rays.
• Seek shade as much as possible between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
If You See Something, Say Something
Make sure you perform a monthly skin self-exam and if you see something out of the ordinary, discuss with your doctor. Skin cancer can present as a new mole or mark on the skin or it can present as a change on an existing mole.
Early detection is key so if you see something, say something to your doctor immediately.
Don’t forget to have your annual skin screening! To schedule an appointment with Dr. Price, call 601.992.3996.