Is your job putting you at risk of skin cancer?

Occupational sun exposure is responsible for about 34,000 cases of skin cancer every year in Australia. Exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer and its harmful effects build up over time, causing irreversible damage to our skin cells and leading to signs of ageing like wrinkles and pigmentation as well as melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.

When you are exposed to higher levels of radiation through your day-to-day work – in fields such as construction or, surprisingly, office work – you are most at risk. In fact, studies indicate that Australians working in these fields may receive up to nine times the amount of dangerous UV radiation exposure than those working in other jobs.

Here are four fields where skin cancer is a real occupational risk.

Construction work

Construction workers have a significantly elevated risk of developing skin cancer, mostly due to their long days spent working outdoors in the sun – often without adequate protection such as protective clothing and sunscreen. Around 86 per cent of construction workers are exposed to UV radiation and are most likely to develop melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.

Agriculture work

Working in agricultural or farming work puts you at heightened risk of skin cancer. Around 99 per cent of agricultural workers are exposed to UV radiation, including farmers, forestry and fishery workers. Studies show that people in these fields are also less likely to understand the importance of skin cancer prevention and follow sun safe habits.

Airline pilots

Did you know that repeatedly flying in the cockpit of an aeroplane is as bad for you as using a solarium? Pilots face about double the risk of developing melanoma than the general population – not because of sun exposure but because of their repeated closer exposure to intense UV radiation while in flight.

For every additional 900 metres of altitude above sea level, there is a 15 per cent increase in UV intensity. Studies show that just 56 minutes in a plane’s cockpit at 30,000 feet is the equivalent of 20 minutes on a sunbed.

Indoor and office work

Office workers have a surprisingly high risk of developing melanoma, because workers sitting near a window all day are exposed to constant UV radiation. Most office buildings do not use glass that blocks UV rays, so if you sit beside a window for eight hours every day, your risk is significantly heightened. Simply moving your desk or chair away from the window can make a dramatic change.

If you believe your job is putting you at risk of skin cancer, you need to look out for any changes in your skin. Taking simple steps to protect yourself against UV radiation at work is imperative, along with regular skin checks to detect any problems early. Early diagnosis offers the best chance of successful treatment.

At National Skin Cancer Centres, we offer full-body skin cancer examinations, diagnosis and treatment, as well as onsite corporate skin checks at your workplace.