As we are (hopefully) getting into warmer weather, I thought I’d share this article from Ag Web about farming and skin cancer. Technically this is more of a health topic than a safety topic, but some of the information in the article was surprising for me. Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the US, and the two activities most associated with skin cancer are use of tanning beds and outdoor work. While 2 of the 3 most common types of skin cancer usually aren’t deadly if caught early, I think a lot of farmers wait longer than they should to get unusual skin changes checked out by a doctor. This means that they are increasing the risk that the cancer could spread and it means that they end up needing more extensive treatment.
Wearing sunblock might be inconvenient, but it’s less inconvenient than needing multiple surgeries and regular skin monitoring if you develop skin cancer. Even if you already have damaged skin, wearing sun block is a good idea because it prevents the damage from getting worse. One solution that has made it easier for me to remember is to buy a bulk pack of travel-sized bottles that can clip on to a key chain. Even if I forget it in the morning, seeing it on my key chain reminds me that I should be wearing it, and it means I always have some with me. Other people that I’ve talked to have had good luck buying large pump-style jugs of sunblock and putting them by the door in the house, barn, and sheds. As far as type, look for SPF 30 or higher with UVA and UVB protection. Most sunblocks meet this requirement nowadays. I’ve had better luck with the types labeled “sport” or “water resistant”. They hold up better if you’re sweating a lot and absorb quickly so dust plant bits don’t stick to it as much.
Also for people who work outdoors, wearing a hat and having someone check your scalp for skin changes is important. I know several people who have developed skin cancer that got to be pretty extensive before they noticed it because it was on the top of their head where they couldn’t see it.