Farmers, as workers who spend the majority of their time outdoors, are particularly at risk of skin cancer – and so should be “sunsmart” and take the recommended precautions to reduce this risk, according to the Irish Cancer Society.

In advice aimed specifically at farmers, the society highlighted that outdoor workers are at particular risk of skin cancer due to the outdoor nature of their jobs.

The main cause of skin cancer is harmful ultra violet (UV) rays from the sun, the charity notes.

UV rays can be harmful from April to September, from 11:00a.m in the morning until 3:00p.m in the afternoon. UV rays can be present on both sunny as well as cool and cloudy days.

The Irish Cancer Society stresses that, whether it is sunny or cloudy, it’s important to protect your skin from April to September – as you cannot see or feel the UV rays which cause damage to the skin.

Up to 90% of UV rays can get through light cloud – and it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day for dangerous UV rays to be present. Even on cool days UV levels can be high enough to damage skin.

To assist people in knowing the right things to do, the Irish Cancer Society has a SunSmart Code to stay safe in the sun and reduce one’s risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Seek shade: When UV rays are at their strongest – generally between 11:00a.m and 3:00p.m;
  • Cover up: By wearing a shirt with a collar and long shorts. Also wear a hat that gives shade to your face, neck and ears;
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses: Make sure they give UV protection;
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen with SPF minimum 30 UVA protection (higher for children), 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if swimming or perspiring;
  • Check the UV index;
  • Keep babies under six months out of the sun.

Turning to who is at risk, the charity is clear on this: We all need to take care of our skin.

Outdoor workers (farmers, construction workers, gardeners, fisherman etc.) who spend most of their time working or playing outdoors, have a higher than average risk of skin cancer, and are advised to follow the SunSmart Code to reduce the risk.

However, the society recommends that you take extra care if you:

  • Have pale or freckled skin that does not tan or burns before it tans;
  • Have naturally red or fair hair;
  • Have blue, green or grey eyes;
  • Have a large number of moles (50 or more);
  • Burn easily or have a history of sunburn;
  • Have already had skin cancer;
  • Have a close family member who has or had skin cancer.

In addition, it is noted that children should also take care.

While skin cancer is very rare in children less than 15 years old, children’s skin is more sensitive to damage from the sun’s UV rays than adult’s skin. Sun exposure in childhood and adolescence sets the stage for skin cancer in later life.

Turning to inside the farmgate, the Irish Cancer Society says some chemicals that are used on the farm, such as creosote, make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. If used incorrectly they can lead to sun burn which increases your risk of skin cancer.

Make sure you read safety instructions before using any chemicals on the farm, the society advises.

To reduce your risk of skin damage when on the farm organise your day around the sun’s UV rays.

To do this:

  • Plan your jobs so that you are in the shade when UV rays are strongest – from 11:00a.m to 3:00p.m;
  • Check the UV Index every day to help you plan to protect your skin from UV damage;
  • Take extra care around midday.

The higher the UV Index the greater the chance of damage to your skin and eyes, the society says. If the UV Index is three or more it is necessary to follow the SunSmart Code.