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Farmers could benefit from recent skin cancer research

MARSHFIELD, WI -- Marshfield Clinic researchers have identified unique characteristics of farmers that can assist providers in caring for this population and also guide development of skin cancer awareness, prevention, and screening initiatives.

Dermatologists Alexandra Carley, MD, and Erik Stratman, MD, used data collected during skin cancer screening conducted at the 2011 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Marshfield, WI. A total of 476 people participated in the study, including 194 farmers. They were surveyed for self-reported sun protection use, sun exposure, and skin cancer and sun protection beliefs and knowledge. Results are published in the current issue of the Journal of Agromedicine, Volume 20, Issue 2.

The screening was sponsored and organized by the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC), Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation. The Farm Center also edits the Journal.

"Farmers have high levels of sun exposure and increased risk of skin cancer," Dr. Carley said. "Although most farmers understand their risk and believe sun-protective behaviors reduce skin cancer risk, most do not routinely use adequate sun protection. Our goal was to identify factors that distinguish the farming population from the non-farming population."

Key findings:

• Only 23% of farmers who reported using sunscreen used it "always" or "frequently" when out in the sun 15 minutes-plus.

• 34% of farmers and 22% of non-farmers were referred for additional evaluation due to identification of a concerning lesion at the screening event.

• Common barriers to sun protection included discomfort with wearing long pants and long shirts, forgetfulness with sunscreen use, and inconvenience with wearing wide-brimmed hats.

For information on how to reduce your skin cancer risk, and tips on other safety and health topics, go to Harvesting Health.

NFMC skin cancer screenings continued at 2014 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days and the 2015 Wisconsin State Cranberry Association winter meeting. Screenings are made possible through philanthropic support from the Auction of Champions Fund a Need program.