What is in this article?:
- Proper protection needed for those who work in the sun
- Types of skin cancers
- Baseball caps are inadequate sun protection.
- Be aware of skin lesions.
- Avoid sunburns.
PROTECTION is the first line of defense against skin cancers. Farming is an at-risk occupation. Mary Collier, Terry County, Texas, Extension agent, says a wide brimmed hat, like this cowboy hat, offers better protection than caps.
Types of skin cancers
Types of skin cancers include:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma—The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is the most easily treatable and least likely to spread, though it can damage surrounding tissue. Because basal cell carcinoma spreads slowly it occurs mostly in adults. Basal cell tumors can take on many forms, including a pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the ears, neck, or face. Tumors can also appear as a flat, scaly, flesh-colored or brown patch on the back or chest, or more rarely, a white, waxy scar.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma—This non-melanoma skin cancer may appear as a firm red nodule, a scaly growth that bleeds or develops a crust, or a sore that doesn't heal. It most often occurs on the nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other sun-exposed areas of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma is curable if caught and treated early. If the skin cancer becomes more advanced, treatment will depend on the stage of cancer.
- Melanoma—Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that usually begins in a mole. It is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it's the most serious and potentially deadly. Possible signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area. Consult a doctor if a mole changes in size, shape, or color, has irregular edges, is more than one color, is asymmetrical, or itches, oozes, or bleeds. Melanoma can affect the skin only, or it may spread to organs and bones. It can be cured if it's found and treated early.
- Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)—The small, scaly red, brown, or skin-colored patches caused by too much sun exposure commonly occur on the head, neck or hands, but can be found elsewhere on the body. They're the early beginnings of skin cancer. Actinic keratosis usually appears on people after age 40, but they can show up in much younger people. People with fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes are most at risk. Early treatment is advised to stop the possible progression to squamous cell carcinoma.
Collier said cataracts are also considered in the same classification as cancers. “As we age, our eyes show damage.” Again, appropriate headwear and sunglasses are recommended.
Farmers also tend to get cancer on their lips and should use a lip balm for protection.
They have other options to reduce the effects of sunlight and skin cancer. Instead of a baseball cap, she recommends a broad-brimmed hat that covers the ears, face and neck. It also helps protect eyes. “There is a reason cowboys wear cowboy hats,” she said.
“Wear long-sleeve shirts, even when it’s hot. Tee-shirts may be more comfortable but they don’t protect you from the sun.
“Use sunblock. Less than 2 percent of ultraviolet rays are absorbed if sunblock is used appropriately. Applying sunblock daily is an especially good idea for anyone who has had pre-cancerous cells removed.”
She said clothing with UV protection is now available.
Collier advised farmers to avoid sunburns. “Sunburn damages your skin and makes it more susceptible to absorbing UV rays.
“Don’t become a statistic,” Collier warned. “Protect yourself from the sun.”