Is Skin Cancer An Occupational Hazard?

Work place injuries typically involve some sort of trauma, like a fall or being cut, or even being exposed to a chemical or caustic substance. But ever think skin cancer could be included in the category of occupational hazards? Two construction workers installing concrete formwork frames

There are plenty of job that require outdoor work: farming, truck driving, landscaping, construction, lifeguards and more. Outdoor workers are exposed to a large and consistent amount of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. “I’ve had many patients come into my office concerned about moles and spots that have appeared on their skin,” notes Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board certified dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic surgeon in Austin, Texas. “These patients have spent an extensive amount of time outside, most of it shade and sunscreen free, which significantly increases their chances for developing skin cancers like melanoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

The potential dangers of working outside on a daily basis can be significant. A little education and information regarding how to take care of your skin when outdoors can go a long way.

“A hard hat only addresses half the problem,” says Dr. Mamelak. Personal protective clothing and devices can range widely depending on the job. Harnesses are available to prevent falls, respirators stop the inhalation of hazardous fumes and particles. “Many of these strategies address specific tasks and situations on the job site. However, we can;t ignore the big picture. We shouldn’t forget about the dangers that are always present.”

Outdoor workers need to be safe. They need to be aware of the damage they can do to their skin and the threats to their health. Dr. Mamelak suggests workplace seminars or educational material for workers on sunscreen and sun protection, as well as making sun-protective clothing part of the employee uniforms.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends annual skin exams for all individuals, and more frequent exams for high risk patients.  “A yearly skin check can make a huge difference, whether it alleviates patient’s fears about suspicious spots on their skin, or making them aware of a skin cancers they may unknowingly have.” Catching skin cancer in its early stages can mean a huge difference in treatment and prognosis of the disease, as well as assist in defusing a threat to your health.

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