Outdoor workers reminded to protect skin

They have higher risk of developing skin cancer
  • Deborah Condon

People who work outdoors are being urged to protect their skin, in order to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland, with over 11,000 people newly diagnosed every year. According to the HSE, this figure is expected to more than double by 2045.

The main risk factor is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Most people living in Ireland have fair skin, which tans poorly and burns easily. This means it is at high risk of UV damage. However, most skin cancers are preventable if people protect their skin properly.

"As with many cancers, skin cancer develops when cells are damaged and grow uncontrollably. Exposure to UV rays from the sun, even on cloudy days, or from artificial sources like sunbeds, is the most common cause of skin cancer," explained Dr Triona McCarthy, a consultant in public health medicine.

The HSE is appealing to everybody, but particularly outdoor workers, to protect their skin at this time of the year.

"In Ireland, UV is strongest between April and September - an important fact to remember as we spend more time outdoors over the summer. If you work outdoors, you will be exposed to up to three times higher amounts of UV from the sun than people who work indoors, and so have a higher risk of developing a skin cancer.

"Whether you work in farming, construction, fishery, gardening, postal, the defence forces, tourism or any other job where you are outdoors, protect your skin from UV rays to reduce your risk of skin cancer. The same goes for golfers, walkers, hikers, surfers, cyclists, and park-goers - we all need to protect our skin from UV rays," the HSE said.

It is calling on people to follow these tips from experts:

-Do not be fooled by mild temperatures. Even if the sun does not feel hot, protect your skin
-The UV index tells you the strength of the sun. When it is at three or above, protect your skin, even when it is cloudy. You can check today's UV index here.
-Use broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children. It should have high UVA protection and be water resistant. Reapply regularly, but remember that no sunscreen can provide 100% protection. It should be used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade
-Wear sunglasses with UV protection
-Limit your time in the midday sun when UV is strongest, typically between the hours of 11am and 3pm
-Seek shade and use a sunshade on prams
-Cover skin as much as possible. Wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts, clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through. This is very important for outdoor workers, who may not always be able to work in the shade
-Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect your face, ears and neck
-Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to sun exposure, keep babies and children out of direct sunlight
-Do not try to get a suntan. Avoid getting a sunburn and never use a sunbed. People who use sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%.

For more information on skin cancer, click here.


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