Skin cancer – risks and early signs

skin cancer

Farming men and women and agricultural workers spend a lot of time working outdoors.  Without appropriate protection they can be increasing their risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer can be a life-threatening condition and protecting skin from Ultraviolet (UV) radiation should be taken very seriously.

Sun exposure is the cause of most skin cancers in Australia. And people who work outdoors get up to 10 times more sun exposure than indoor workers. Australia continues to have  one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, accounting for over 80% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year. More than 11,500 Australian men and women are diagnosed with a melanoma each year, and an estimated 434,000 people are treated for one or more non-melanoma1 skin cancers. . (Cancer Council Australia, 2018)Skin cancer – risk factors

Common risk factors for skin cancer in individuals include having fair skin, having many moles and freckles, a personal or family history of skin cancer, excessive sun exposure and solarium use.

UV radiation exposure

UV radiation isn’t like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. Your senses cannot detect UV radiation, so you won’t notice the damage until it has been done. Some ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is important for bone and muscle health, but too much UV can cause sunburn, premature ageing, skin and eye damage and ultimately skin cancer. Protecting skin from over-exposure is key to reducing your risk of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer – prevention

Fortunately, most skin cancers are preventable. Being SunSmart  and protecting your skin using the combination of these   simple measures is an effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

Slip on long sleeves and pants
Slop on 50+ sunscreen to all skin not protected by clothing
Slap on a broad brim  hat
Seek shade between 11am – 3pm
Slide on 100% UV protective sunglasses

Where possible – farmers and agricultural workers should try to avoid outdoor tasks in the middle of the day or when UV radiation is highest.

Check your skin (and your friend’s and family’s skin) regularly for any changes in moles or sunspots. Take photographs if this helps. Look for any changes in shape, colour and size. If you notice changes or are concerned then see your doctor and request a sun spot check.

Download the SunSmart weather app  and check out the UV forecasts from the weather bureau on the Farmer Health weather pages.  and know you will need sun protection when the UV index is 3 or above.

To find out more about this topic go to Better Health Channel

References used for this topic page

More information:

Cancer Council Australia
Causes of skin cancer

Cancer Institute NSW
Skin cancer risk tool

Sunsmart Victoria
Protecting your farm’s most important asset. You. (PDF)

Sunsmart Victoria
Checking for skin cancer


Clinical care:

Cancer Council Australia
Skin cancer clinical guidelines

Cancer Council Australia
Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Melanoma in Australia and New Zealand [PDF 7Mb]


Research & reviews:

Science Direct
Farmers sun exposure, skin protection and public health campaigns: An Australian perspective

Contemporary Clinical Trials
The skin awareness study : promoting thorough skin self-examination for skin cancer among men 50 years or older

Journal of American Academy of Dermatology
Screening, early detection, and trends for melanoma: Current status (2000-2006) and future directions

Journal of American Academy of Dermatology
Rural-urban differences in behaviours to prevent skin cancer: An analysis of the Health Information National Trends Survey

Fast facts:

Skin cancer – risks and early signs

  • Farmers spend a lot of time outdoors; this can increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Check your skin regularly for any changes, especially moles or freckles that change.
  • Have a annual skin review with a skin specialist.
  • See your doctor if you see any changes, as skin cancer, if picked up early can usually be treated.
  • Wear a broad brim hat, UV protective sunglasses, keep your skin covered as much as possible and use sunscreen 50+ on exposed skin.

Last updated: 18th January, 2019