Farmers and Ranchers: Take Your Skin Seriously
Skin cancer is often associated with people using tanning beds to get ready for a special event or a trip to the Bahamas — not farmers and ranchers. However, think about it: farmers, ranchers, gardeners, construction workers, and so many more spend entire days, back-to-back, working in the sun.
“One thing people don’t realize is that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S.,” said Katie Bonnichsen, MD, Avera Medical Group dermatologist in Pierre. “Dermatologists work in conjunction with patients to enable them to make decisions to protect their skin.”
The first step to protecting your skin is to know your skin. This means checking over your body for any peculiar changes or additions. The three different types of skin cancer include:
- Basal cell carcinoma – This most-diagnosed form of skin cancer is marked by pink or red spots that often become crusty and eventually bleed.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – Not quite as well-known, squamous cell carcinoma is characterized by pink spots that grow quickly.
- Melanoma – The most well-known and serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, has spots that may alter between different shades of brown. The outline of the spot may appear irregular.
“Oftentimes, I hear farmers and ranchers say that they thought it was a pimple or bug bite that wouldn’t heal,” said Mandi Greenway, MD, Avera Medical Group dermatologist in Mitchell. “Any skin blemish that refuses to heal should always be checked out.”
The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. During those times, it’s best to seek shade and stay indoors. If being outdoors is unavoidable, take these steps to protect yourself:
- Apply sunscreen every two hours. If it’s an extra hot day, apply more frequently as you’ll be sweating a lot more. Make sure the label reads “SPF 30+” and “broad spectrum.” This protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Consider what you wear. Invest in light, long-sleeved clothing. Special sun-protective clothing is available that wicks away moisture for an added level of comfort. “Studies have shown that wearing light, long-sleeved clothing keeps your skin cooler in the hot summer sun,” said Greenway.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats. Baseball caps are popular with farmers and ranchers; unfortunately, they don’t offer enough protection for your ears, neck and nose.
“Dermatologists can administer full or half body-checks, depending on the patient’s preference,” said Bonnichsen. “It gives dermatologists the opportunity to look for any abnormalities and offer guidelines and tips for skin protection.”
Lack of moisturizer and sunscreen are huge stumbling blocks when it comes to skin health, but it doesn’t compare to what Greenway feels is the biggest mistake among farmers, rancher and people in general.
“I hear many people say, ‘It’s just skin cancer; it’s not going to kill me,’” said Greenway. “It can kill you, especially if it’s melanoma.”
But even if the cancer is not life-threatening, skin cancer treatment can be intense and it sometimes results in losing a part of the nose, ear, lips, etc. “It’s time to take skin cancer seriously,” said Greenway.
For more personalized care, or to schedule a skin cancer screening, contact your local dermatologist or health care provider.