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Outside Workers Least Likely to Get Skin Exams

But rest of workforce lax as well in getting checked for cancers caused by sun exposure

THURSDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Workers who face the greatest risk of developing skin cancer from overexposure to the sun are the least likely to get regular exams to detect its early warning signs, a new report says.

Then, again, the rest of the workforce isn't doing that good of a job either, according to the study published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Only 15 percent of all workers in the study had ever received a skin exam in their lifetime; however, the percentages were significantly lower for people whose jobs frequently subject them to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. These occupations included farm operators and managers (10 percent), farm workers and other agricultural workers (7 percent), forestry and fishing occupations (3 percent), construction and mining (8 percent), and construction laborers (8 percent).

"When we analyzed the data by industry sectors, we concluded that agriculture, forestry, fishing and construction workers reported the lowest rate of skin exams in 2000," dermatologist Robert S. Kirsner, vice chairman of the department's of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement. "Although the number of agriculture, forestry and fishing workers reporting a skin exam increased from 2000 to 2005, from 4.2 percent to 13.6 percent, the prevalence of skin exams among construction workers stayed essentially the same, from 5.2 percent to 5.6 percent."

The findings were based on an analysis of 2000 and 2005 data taken from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual, cross-sectional, in-person household survey of U.S. workers.

"As dermatologists, we know that the early detection of skin cancer by routine skin examinations is crucial in successfully treating this potentially life-threatening condition, particularly for workers routinely exposed to harmful ultraviolet light. This study shows that workers who need careful monitoring for skin cancer due to the nature of their jobs are less likely to receive skin exams than workers in low-risk occupations," Kirsner said.

He said the trend could be reversed by holding local community health fairs that include screening programs targeting high-risk workers.

More information

The American Academy of Dermatology has more about where you can receive a free skin cancer screening.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, May 5, 2008

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