Farming calls for sun protection

Farmers and other people who make a living working outdoors face an increased threat of skin cancer from repeated over-exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

“Because farmers spend so much time out in the sun, they need to take extra precautions,” said Jimmy Maass, safety coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. Dr. Christopher Gorman, chief resident in the department of dermatology at the University of Virginia, sees patients who are farmers. “Farmers often have a lifetime of sun exposure, which places them at an increased risk of developing skin cancers. They should make it a habit to make sun safety practices a part of their daily routine,” Gorman said.

The more common skin cancers include basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Melanoma is the most concerning and dangerous, Gorman said. “Sun exposure, numerous moles and a family history in a first-degree relative are among some of the risk factors for melanoma. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical.”
 New, changing or abnormal moles should be evaluated by a physician.

Deborah Williamson, a Fauquier County lavender producer, has fair skin and blue eyes, so she makes sun safety a top priority. “When I was younger, I remember we would use sunscreen once in awhile, maybe if we were at the beach all day,” Williamson said. “Once I had my son I took sun safety more seriously. If he is outside for more than an hour, he usually has sunscreen on.” Williamson wears a broad-brimmed hat to keep the sun off her neck, face, and nose and to help keep the sun out of her eyes. She also wears sunglasses. She uses a high Sun Protection Factor sunscreen on her face, forearms and neck. She also tries to limit afternoon sun exposure when possible.

It’s possible to get sunburn even on a cloudy day, Gorman said. “You still get ultraviolet exposure through clouds. You can also get sunburn from the sun’s reflection on snow, sand or water.”

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