Human beings everywhere share a special relationship with the sun. We are warmed by the sun and our earth sustains and enriches itself with the help of its glimmering rays. However, as we crave the sun's heat and light, this golden star can have a dangerous and deadly effect upon us. We must be aware that there is a dark side to the sun and learn how to protect ourselves from it. Our health, well being, and livelihoods depend on it.
AGRICULTURAL WORKERS ARE AT RISK
Like any other part of our bodies, skin is a place where cancer can develop. Fortunately, most skin cancer can be cured when discovered early and treated promptly. If you know the facts about skin cancer, you know that it can be prevented.
Skin cancer is linked to excessive sun exposure. According to the American Cancer Society, 600,000 cases of skin cancer occur every year in the United States. Out of the 600,000 cases, an estimated 8,200 end in death.
When exposed to the sun, our skin can go through a series of changes:
Short Term Effects Suntan: A suntan is not a sign of good health. As a defense mechanism, the body produces a pigment called melanin, which turns the skin brown. Suntanning causes skin to age prematurely.
Sunburn: Sunburns occur when the body receives excessive amounts of radiation (the full effect of the sun is not realized until 14 to 24 hours later). Along with a sunburn, the skin may blister, which indicates a second degree burn.
Delayed Effects Skin changes: Skin can change in several ways. The sun can cause skin to age, wrinkle, thicken, dry out, freckle, and blemish, and develop a rough texture.
Skin Cancers: Skin cancers are caused by excessive exposure to the sun's ultra-violet rays. It is important to remember that sunburns are not the only condition that lead to the development of skin cancer.
TYPES OF SKIN CANCER
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MELANOMA?
Melanoma cells produce melanin, the skin coloring agent, causing this type of cancer to be tan, brown and black. It may appear suddenly, but most often it occurs near a mole or a dark spot on the skin. It is essential that you know the location of moles on your body so that you can recognize any change in their size, shape, and color.
Warning Signs of Melanoma People who work outdoors, such as agricultural workers, are exposed to the sun on a daily basis. It is critically important that these people be keenly aware of skin cancer's warning signals and get into the habit of doing regular monthly self examinations.
Finding changes in skin growths or the appearance of new growths is the best way to find early skin cancer. Each skin cancer can be readily detected.
If any of these warning signs exist, consult your physician--Early detection is critical!
EARLY DETECTION CAN LEAD TO A CURE!
However, it is important to remember that cancers can recur. Skin cancer patients should conduct monthly skin exams, follow their physicians advice, and avoid excessive sun exposure.
Risk Factors Leading to Skin Cancer
CHILDREN AND THE SUN
Being exposed to the sun throughout a lifetime can be deadly. Sun exposure is cumulative; the more sun you are exposed to and the longer you live, the greater your chances of having skin cancer.
Protecting skin from damaging ultra-violet rays is more crucial during childhood than throughout the adult years.
The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines to protect children from the sun:
While the prevention and detection of skin cancer may involve changing some attitudes and behaviors, there's no doubt that the benefits of good health will be just as renewing as each sunrise and sunset.
This document is part of the Agricultural Safety and Health Series. For more information about agricultural safety & health, contact: Project Director, Oklahoma Agricultural Health, Promotion System, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University; or The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, 1-800-35-NIOSH.
Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More