Lowering Skin Cancer Risk in Construction

Construction work site

May is skin cancer awareness month. With the arrival of warmer months to the northern hemisphere it is well understood that site-based and outdoor contruction workers are at a higher risk of skin cancer than most other professions. This is due to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Millions affected

Five million people are treated for skin cancer every year in the U.S. According to a study of almost 2,300 agricultural and construction workers, overall use of sunscreen and actively seeking shade was low among participants. Age and other factors produced varying results. Of those who work in construction, only 15% to 21% reported use of sunscreen, 24% to 29% sought shade, and about half wore protective clothing. 

The same study listed simple steps to lower the risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Move to shade whenever possible.
  • Use sunscreen with a factor of at least SPF15 for protection, though some dermatologists recommend a minimum factor of SPF30.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and pants that extend to the ankle.

The study showed that construction workers rarely used multiple methods at the same time, but about two-thirds regularly use at least one. 

Some consider suntans healthy

Separate studies in Canada, Scotland, and Germany produced similar findings with lack of self-care when it comes to construction workers and exposure to UV light. Unfortunately, the perception among European workers has been that a suntan indicated a person was “healthy.” To measure UV exposure through standard erythemal dose (SED), wearable UV sensors mounted to hardhats of workers at nine jobsites in central Scotland revealed that outdoor workers each received an average of 2 SED per day during the summer months. Even those who worked partly indoors and outdoors received an average of 0.69 SED per day. The recommended SED exposure limit per day is 0.3 for light-skinned individuals. 

During the lifetime of a person who works outdoors, these levels of exposure to UV light can significantly increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Click here to read the entire story at International Construction’s website. The image above courtesy of Pexels.com.

May 11, 2023

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