Burn Baby Burn

Are you dying for a tan?

Farmer images courtesy of Today FM

What do James Bond and many young farmers have in common? (Apart from the latest state-of-the-art equipment and some snazzy chat up lines?)

Well this for one – a farmer’s tan!

Let’s face it – we have enjoyed record temperatures over the last few weeks and have no excuse this year to whinge about not having a summer but, while hot weather is a welcome condition for the farming community, it can also play havoc on your health. Too much intensive heat isn’t good for anyone, especially one working long hours in direct sunlight and can lead to sunburn, heat stroke or dehydration …

At the Farm Safety Foundation, we hate to be the fun sponges but there is enough evidence to show that overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) exposure could have a potentially deadly consequence.

UV radiation is the main preventable cause of skin cancers – both melanoma skin cancer (the most serious type) and non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC). The sun is the principal source of natural UV radiation with an estimated 86% of melanoma skin cancers in the UK (around 13,600 cases) every year linked to too much exposure to sunlight or sunbed use.

In a survey by the Teenage Cancer Trust, a shocking 60% of young people ditch sunscreen in a bid to boost their skin’s glow. The figures also show 90% have been sunburnt at least once, with a third of 13 to 24 year olds claiming they have already been burnt more than five times!

And the main reasons given for getting burnt? Forgetting to put lotion on or being too lazy to bother…

We spoke to the team at NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services, who explained:

“Too much exposure to sunlight is harmful to your skin. A tan is a sign that the skin has already been damaged. The damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight.

“If work keeps you outdoors for a long time your skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy for you. Farm workers, in particular, could be at risk from UV.

“If you have naturally brown or black skin, you are less at risk of skin cancer, although cases do occur. So who is most at risk?

You should take particular care if you have:
• fair or freckled skin that does not tan, goes red, or burns before it tans;
• red or fair hair and light coloured eyes;
• a large number of moles.

“In the short term, even mild reddening of the skin from sun exposure is a sign of damage. Sunburn can blister the skin and cause it to peel. In the long term, too much sun speeds up ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. The most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.”

So, what can you do if you do have to work in direct sunlight for hours on end?

• Keep your top on when working.
• Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
• Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time.
• Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF30 on any exposed skin.
• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Little and often is the best approach, do not drink alcohol.
• Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Protect your skin
Looking after your skin now can help you avoid skin cancer in the future. So follow these five simple steps to prevent skin damage (and to prevent the lobster look…)
• Cover up – think long-sleeves, overalls and long shorts
• Slap on the suncream – water resistant and at least Factor 30
• Wear a hat or cap – cowboy, straw, baseball, bowler – whatever you fancy
• Slip on your shades – your eyes need protection too
• Chill out in the shade – especially between 11am and 3pm. (Hard to do, we know!)

Where can you find further information?
Cancer Research UK CLICK HERE

HSE ‘Keep Your Top On’ Health risks from working in the sun CLICK HERE

HSE Outdoor Workers and Sun Exposure CLICK HERE

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