Shining light on an occupational hazard

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 23rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You spend your workday in the great outdoors, with the sun on your face and the breeze blowing through your hair. You are the envy of every cooped-up, cubicle-dwelling office minion who ever toiled in front of a monitor to bring home the bacon.

But what you might not realize is that all that glorious time spent in the sunshine leaves you with a high risk of skin cancer.

And a recent study reveals that people who practice their trade in the outdoors… like those in the agricultural, mining and construction industries… are the occupational sector least likely to receive skin exams from their primary health-care provider.

Researchers looked at statistics from the National Health Interview Survey, where about forty-thousand U-S workers were asked to estimate how many hours a day they spent in the sun. They also reported when they last saw a doctor for a head-to-toe skin exam… if ever. Turns out, just fifteen percent of all U-S workers interviewed had ever received a complete skin exam from their doctor. Those who worked in the sun the most were the group least likely to get skin exams to detect cancer.

So what’s a health-conscience lumberjack to do? First, protect your skin from the sun while working. Wear a hat and shirts with sleeves, and use sunscreen. Second, give your skin the once-over every month to look for suspicious bumps and moles. Third, ask your doctor to do a full-body skin exam at your yearly checkup.