What you need to know: outdoor workers and skin cancer
Did you know that outdoor workers have a significantly increased risk of developing sun-related illnesses including heatstroke and skin cancer? If you work outdoors, it's important to take steps every day to protect yourself from the sun and be vigilant about your skin health to catch skin cancers early, when they are easiest to treat.
Recent research in New South Wales shows that work-related skin cancer cases cost the state more than $12 million over 10 years, with 903 workers compensation claims for work-related skin cancer between 2006 and 2016, including 12 deaths.
In Australia, UV radiation is present every day in varying levels of intensity, whether it's sunny, rainy or overcast. It is therefore vital for outdoor workers (including tradies, gardeners, delivery workers, farmers and road workers) to take care in the sun.
No matter what job you perform outside, you need to wear sun-safe clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
The most common sites for skin cancers to form on people who spend a great deal of time outside include the ears, face, scalp, hands and arms - areas that are typically exposed to the sun. It's important to monitor your skin closely for any new or changing spots, and to get regular full-body skin checks with your doctor.
The more time you spend in the sun, the more damage is done to your skin cells. The trauma is irreversible and you often won't see the signs of skin cancer until later in life. The disease can grow quickly and be fatal if left untreated, so early detection is key.
Employers can download the Cancer Council's free SunSmart app which identifies key sun protection times around the country and provides reminders to re-apply sunscreen.
Skin cancer isn't the only threat to outdoor workers. Heat-related illnesses including fainting, confusion, thirst, dizziness and muscle cramps are also common after a long day spent in the sun. If you notice any of these signs, move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, drink plenty of water and seek medical advice.
In the harsh Australian climate, it is imperative that people working outdoors protect themselves against skin cancer every day and get regular skin checks to catch any concerns early. If in doubt, get it checked!