Sweet, juicy watermelons and sun-kissed tomatoes may thrive in the sultry summer sun, but those same beautiful rays can be deadly enemies to human skin.
Alabama Farmers Federation State Beef Committee Member Bill Lipscomb, who also serves on the Autauga County Farmers Federation board of directors, said his familiarity with sun safety precautions follows a personal battle with skin cancer.
“I went shirtless as a teenager because it was cool,” said Lipscomb, who developed skin cancer on his hands. “I never thought about sun safety. But I’ll be the first to tell you today… ‘Don’t go without a shirt because tan is cool; it isn’t worth it in the long run. Wear a hat and gloves. You may not think about protecting your hands, but they’re important, too.’”
Farmers and outdoor workers are most likely to get an infamous farmer’s tan — and contract skin cancer and diseases. Although a tan may be desirable, skin isn’t always appreciative of the sun exposure.
Bret Stanfield, public information specialist for the Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, said those routinely spending time in the sun should see a doctor annually to check irregular moles, freckles or other spots.
“Alabama’s Department of Public Health Comprehensive Cancer Control Program encourages all Alabamians, especially farmers, to practice sun safety by applying sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and seeking shade whenever possible,” Stanfield said. “By following these guidelines, Alabamians can greatly reduce their chances of developing melanoma skin cancer.”
Many clothing companies have begun to incorporate ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) coatings to help deflect UV rays. A higher UPF number means more protection and a lower risk of developing skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, thicker fabrics with tighter weaves, such as denim and wool, leave little room for the sun’s rays to reach the skin. Even an ordinary white cotton T-shirt can provide protection after a wash with Sun Guard’s Rit® laundry additive.
Stanfield said Alabama’s melanoma skin cancer incidence and mortality rates are near the national average. The ADPH Cancer Control Program reports Alabama’s melanoma rate in 2009 was 18.6 per 100,000 people, while the national average was 18.8. The state’s mortality rate was 2.8, while the national average was 2.7.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says clothing provide the indisputable best protection against skin cancer, followed by sunscreen and hats.