Yeah, I know: You probably won’t read this. And even if you do you’ll probably think, as so many do, “It can’t happen to me,” and you’ll just keep on not bothering with sunscreen and ignoring the fact that incidences of skin cancer are increasing significantly and that farmers, who are outdoors and in the sun much of the year, are at a greater risk.
Melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer, is really nasty stuff, and it can be deadly. A friend of mine, who was out in the sun a lot in his work, and was generally shirtless when on the water fishing, died from melanomas on his back that spread to his brain. A couple other friends caught theirs early, but had to have surgery and a year on a really awful drug regimen that often left them wishing they were dead.
Either way, it’s not something you’d want to go through, particularly when you can take steps that can lessen the risk.
Those of us who grew up in the dark ages, before the dangers of too much time in the sun were medically established, now get to make frequent trips to the dermatologist to have pre-cancerous lesions frozen or scraped off, all the while keeping fingers crossed that nothing more serious occurs.
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Skin cancer, according to the National Farm Medicine Center, is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Two million people are diagnosed every year, and the odds are 1 in 5 that you could be in that number. Almost every hour, one person dies from melanoma, and the number of melanoma diagnoses is increasing yearly, particularly in the 15 to 29 age group.
“Oh, I just burn some in the spring, and then I’m OK,” farmer friends tell me. But today’s sunburn can come back to bite you 20 years down the road in the form of skin cancer.
The NFMC recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher 20 to 30 minutes before going outside — even on a cloudy day up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can come through — and reapplying every two hours (more if you’re perspiring heavily or swimming).
Other tips: Wear sun-protective clothing and hat (most baseball-type hats don’t offer adequate protection), sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, and use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. Sunscreen is particularly important on face, neck, hands, and arms, where most skin cancers occur (but on all exposed areas if you’re swimming).
A bit of caution in the form of sun protection — and semi-annual dermatologist visits — could well prevent serious repercussions, even death, down the way.