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Farmers at increased risk for skin cancer

Farmers toiling in the fields in the summertime heat could be at risk for skin cancer.

&uot;Most farmers are worried about getting their work done, not about where the sunscreen is,&uot; said Jill Smith, organizational director of the Athens, Gallia, and Lawrence Farm Bureau. &uot;They are motivated by the job and what needs to be done.&uot;

Carol H. Cooper, M.D., of Tri-State Dermatology in Ashland, Ky., said there certainly is a higher risk of sun exposure for farmers and others working outdoors, especially on people’s ears, the backs of their necks, and their forearms and face. She said most of her patients with skin cancer are in their 50s or 60s, but she has seen patients as young as 17.

Nancy Quillen, also employed with Tri-State Dermatology, said her office has treated 40 skin cancer patients from Ohio. None of them have been cases of melanoma, which can be deadly. However, some Ohio residents have been treated for basal cell skin cancer, which Quillen said consists of small spots on the skin. This form of skin cancer will not spread throughout someone’s body. She also said some Ohio residents have been treated for squamous cell skin cancer, which tends to spread more quickly, and can spread to other parts of the body. However, Quillen said this form of skin cancer is usually not deadly.

Smith said farmers are not unconcerned about their health, just oblivious to it. It is a mentality, she said.

Chris Monnig, co-owner of Monnig Brothers Farm, which produces corn, soybean, and wheat, said the four to six people who work outside at the farm wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts most of the time, but they do not wear sunscreen. He said they probably should wear it.

Tom Rabel, safety coordinator for the Lawrence County Farm Bureau, said in a press release the best action farmers can take to prevent skin cancer is to wear a wide-brimmed hat instead of a baseball style cap. The more tightly woven the fibers are, the greater the protection, Rabel added.

In a press release, the Lawrence County Farm Bureau, the Ohio State University Extension and the National Farm Medicine Center also suggested wearing sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and reapplying it every hour, and avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

They also suggested considering the benefits of sun protective features like enclosed cabs or sun shades when purchasing farm equipment. Amelia A. Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune