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Staying ‘Sun Safe’: Farmers warned about the dangers of sun exposure

With summer almost upon us and the sun splitting the rocks this week, farmers have been warned of the high risks of developing potentially fatal skin cancers from spending long hours working outdoors.

The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) says almost one in four of skin cancer deaths in Ireland are from the construction, outdoor and the farming industry. With summer approaching, the group wants farmers and builders in particular to be keenly aware of the risks of sun exposure.

More than 10,000 Irish people are diagnosed with skin cancers every year, the majority among men.

The society points to recent British research which discovered that outdoor workers who were diagnosed with skin cancers were more likely than others to die from them; two out of every ten cases were fatal among farmers.

“In 2014, we had around one death every week in Ireland that was related to sun exposure at work. Coupled with the research from the UK, it shows just how extensive, and unfortunately fatal, sun damage can be for outdoor workers,” said Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society.

It’s vital that we pay heed to this in Ireland this summer. You don’t have to live in a Mediterranean country for the sun to do damage to your skin.

The Irish Cancer Society’s campaign is being supported by the IFA.

“Farmers are outdoors from sunrise to sunset, and very often have no protection on their skin so are very vulnerable to skin cancer,” said IFA President Joe Healy.

“We want to encourage farmers to reduce their risk of sun damage by organising their day so that they are in the shade between 11am and 3pm, and check their skin regularly for changes.”

Staying ‘Sun Safe’

Sun-cream is a ‘tool’ which can be used or misused. It should be applied generously to areas of exposed skin before going out, and applied again about half an hour later. Coverage should be topped up throughout the day, and don’t forget to apply it to skin exposed later on, when you start rolling up your sleeves for example.

It is also recommended to use sun-cream on overcast days, as the UV rays which cause skin cancers can penetrate cloud cover and lead to skin damage.

You can download the Irish Cancer Society’s advice leaflet on sun safety here.

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