Working outdoors often means working in the direct sunlight. The biggest safety concern with extended sun exposure is skin cancer from the sun's strong ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor. A typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so other types of protection may be necessary as well.
- For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A baseball cap does not protect your ears and the back of your neck.
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Always use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 before working outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.
Reapply sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and if you are perspiring significantly.
Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
SIgns and Symptoms of Skin Cancer
A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers look the same.
A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma—
- “A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
- “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
- “C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
- “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
- “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.