Consumer protection: Preventing skin cancer in the summer

Summer arrived just after midnight on June 21, and with it the increased risk of overexposure to the sun – overexposure which, over time, can cause skin cancer.

Workers who toil outdoors, such as construction workers, dock workers, port drivers, farm laborers and letter carriers, are especially vulnerable, just by the number of hours they work in the heat of day.

“Skin cancer due to occupation is more common than is generally recognized, although it is difficult to obtain an accurate estimate of its prevalence,” occupational medicine specialist Dr. G.K. Gawkrodger wrote in a National Institutes of Health journal several years ago.

While most occupational skin cancers come from “industrial exposure of men to chemical carcinogens… those with outdoor occupations are still exposed to solar ultraviolet irradiation without this being widely recognized as an industrial hazard.

“It will be necessary to focus on preventative measures, e.g. for outdoor workers, the need to cover up in the sun and use sun protective creams and a campaign for earlier recognition of skin cancers, which are usually curable if treated in their early stages,” he said.

With that risk in mind, Letter Carriers Health Benefits Director Brian Hellman devoted his column in the latest Postal Record to the risks of skin cancers – and how to lessen or prevent skin cancer. After all, he noted, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.  To reduce the risk “CDC recommends these easy options,” he adds:

• “Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.” Ultraviolet rays from the sun – the ones that cause cancer “are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If that’s not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella or a pop-up tent.” If you’re already sunburned, you’re at risk, CDC adds.

“Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.” Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and skirts and the darker the better, CDC told Hellman. “A wet t-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one,” he adds laconically.

“Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.”  The best ones are wraparound glasses, which block almost all the rays of both types. Prolonged eye exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can lead to future cataracts. And, while CDC didn’t say so, don’t stare directly at the sun.

• “Use sunscreen with at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 and UVA and UVB protection when you go outside. And put it on generously half an hour before going out. Reapplying it during the time outside also helps.

• “Avoid indoor tanning.” Ultraviolet rays are ultraviolet rays, whether from the sun or the salon.

“Do a skin check once a month” and “schedule regular checkups with your doctor if you find areas on your skin, such as moles appearing or changing color, that seem different than normal.”

Source: PAI