31st August 2017

Rural workers turning a blind eye to skin cancer risk

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One in four countryside enthusiasts hardly every wears suncream despite believing that outdoor workers are at greater risk of skin cancer, NHS England has found.

A survey of Mole Valley customers in southern England showed that 80 per cent thought that those who worked in the open air were more at risk because of their longer exposure to the sun.

But the farming retailer found that while more than half of respondents said that protecting themselves from the sun was very important, more than a quarter said they hardly ever used suncream.

The survey – completed mainly by agricultural workers – was conducted for NHS England’s Cover Up, Mate campaign. Both Mole Valley and the National Farmers Union (NFU) are supporting the campaign.

It aims to encourage men who work outdoors, such as farmers and construction workers, to take a safer approach when in the summer sun to help reduce the possibility of skin cancer.

A recent Imperial College study, commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) estimated that 44 per cent of construction workers die as a result of ultraviolet rays from the sun at work in Britain, followed by agriculture workers (23 per cent).

Public Health England statistics show that many areas across the South have higher rates of malignant melanoma than the national average. Between 2005 and 2014, malignant melanoma cases in men rose by 47.3 per cent in the South East.

Kate Field, head of information and intelligence at the IOSH, a core partner of the campaign, said: “We encourage businesses to implement sun safety strategies to help prevent skin cancer.

“This includes checking the UV index, avoiding or minimising exposure to direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm, and regularly swapping job tasks between workers to make sure everyone on the team can spend some time in the shade. People can also cover up by wearing clothing and applying sunscreen where the skin can’t be protected.”