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British outdoor workers at greater risk of skin cancer

worker on rooftop.

People who work outdoors in Britain account for 2% of malignant melanoma skin cancer cases, a new study has found.

Workers who spend too much time exposed to the sun’s UV rays while at work account for one death from the deadly cancer every week, according to the Imperial College London study, published in the British Journal Of Cancer.

This overexposure is also the cause of five new cases every week.

Construction and farming

Construction workers are the most at risk, followed by those who work in agriculture, the police, armed forces and public administration workers, the study found.

There are 48 deaths and 241 cases of melanoma skin cancer each year in Britain caused by overexposure to the sun while working.

Dr Lesley Rushton, lead researcher, says people often don't understand the risks of damage caused by sun in the UK. Spotting the symptoms is key to helping prevent or manage the disease.

Workers should know what their skin is normally like and see a doctor if there are any changes, including a new mole or mark, or a change to something you've had for a while.

Employers are also being urged to make sure they take sun exposure at work seriously and work out how to regulate it.

The study looked at risk estimates from previously published studies and national data sources on skin cancer.

Too much of a good thing

Sarah Williams, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, says that while the sun can help maintain healthy bones, too much can increase the risk of skin cancer.

The best ways for people to protect their skin are to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, and cover up with clothing, she says. 

Also, applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15, and four or more stars – on the parts of the body that can’t be covered like face and hands – is also vital.

 

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