Metric Field Safety Insight

Excess Sun Exposure & Skin Cancer

Sun is out, days are longer, and life seems to be going good recovering from the harsh winter. As we all know, during this time of year, field work increases dramatically and hotter days will follow. The sun is essential to all life on Earth, however too much exposure to the sun can be harmful to us. Excessive exposure to ultraviolent light, also called UV rays, emitted from the sun can many skin conditions as well as skin cancer.  A little bit of exposure can help us get vitamin D which is a good thing; most effects from sun exposure are not good however. Some skin conditions caused by sun exposure include wrinkles, freckles, discolored skin, benign tumors, and skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States. UV light from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. There are three types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma, made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Over time, cumulative exposure to the sun causes the basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. More severe acute episodes of sun burn, especially at younger ages, are more likely to cause melanoma. It is very important to protect your kids from severe sun burn. People who are light skin or burn easily are most likely to get melanoma.

Safety Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer

  • Wear sun screen to protect your skin from UV rays. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 will protect you from UVB rays and zinc oxide will protect you from UVA rays. Make sure to reapply it frequently when working outdoors or sweating.
  • The majority of our exposure to the sun in our lifetime occurs during childhood. While it may be too late to worry about whether you had adequate protection when you were a kid, it is not too late to protect your kids or other young family members from being over exposed to the sun.
  • Stay in shaded areas while performing field work as much as possible to limit exposure.
  • Periodically check yourself for irregular moles or markings on your skin. A new lesion on your skin, a new mole, or change in an existing mole may indicate skin cancer.

Stay Safe!

Author: Kristopher Jenkins, MS, GSP, REP, CSHM
Author: Kristopher Jenkins, MS, GSP, REP, CSHMEnvironmental Health & Safety Specialist