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Hispanic Farmworkers Need More Information on Skin Disease

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have examined the prevalence of skin disease in Hispanic farmworkers in North Carolina and found that three out of four farmworkers harbors skin disease.// There is also a lack of information on commonly found skin diseases as well as potentially lethal ones like skin cancer, the report said. It appears in the May issue of the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health

A second study, which involved in-depth interviews with 30 farmworkers from across the state, was designed to determine workers' beliefs and perceptions about occupational skin disease. Results are reported in the April issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. "Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to diseases of the skin and have the highest incidence of skin disorders of any industry," said Thomas Arcury, Ph.D., professor of family medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and lead researcher. "These workers represent a medically underserved population that is at risk for both environmental and occupational health problems, as well as health problems associated with poverty."

An estimated 4.2 million seasonal and migrant farmworkers and their families live in the United States. Most farmworkers are Hispanic, with a majority being from Mexico. Due to language barriers – 44 percent indicate they speak no English – they have limited access to health education or safety warnings.

In the study involving skin exams of 59 workers, all five female workers had skin disease, while 78 percent of the 54 men did. The study was conducted during the 2004 growing season. For men, the most common diagnoses were nail fungus, foot fungus and acne. Among the women, diagnoses included excessively dry skin, foot fungus and acne. "While these may not be a direct result of farmwork, it is likely a result of resources and living environment," said Arcury.

He explained that workers often must s
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