FARMING MATTERS: Farmers are at greater risk of skin cancer

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Sunshine and fresh air are good for us, we all need Vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Farmers probably get more Vitamin D than most. But the flip side to this is their increased risk of skin cancer.

Working in the rough, tough world of agriculture, many farmers often want to brush things off and just get on with the job. They don’t want to think about sunscreen or slapping sticky creams on their dusty arms.

But skin cancer in men is increasing at a faster rate than it is for women, so this attitude needs to change. Over the past decade, deaths from malignant melanoma in men rose by 34.6% in the south east. And outdoor workers are at greater risk than most.

The #CoverUpMate campaign, led by NHS England, aims to encourage outdoor workers to protect themselves from sunburn and avoid developing potentially fatal skin cancer. Campaign partners include NFU South East. The Met Office is also getting involved.

Between May and September, UV rates are higher and the risk of sunburn increases - getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer. So farmers and all outdoor workers need to try and find a sunscreen they can tolerate. And there are transparent water resistent sprays available that require little or no rubbing in.

And although it might be tempting to work topless in scorching hot weather, some kind of loose breathable covering is best, as well as a hat and sunglasses. It’s not always easy for busy farmers to remain indoors between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest, but if indoor jobs can be done at that time, this is advisable.

Those with particularly fair skin, moles, freckles and red or fair hair are particularly at risk. It is important to be aware of your own skin and to tell your GP immediately if you notice any changes to how your skin looks or feels. Skin cancer can appear as a new mole or mark, or a change to something that has been there for a while.