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The Farmer’s Tan

The Farmer’s Tan

One by one I noticed it. My wife’s family and their friends are farmers from Mississippi. I began to notice it every time I went down for a visit. It seemed that with each trip I ran into a new man who was dealing with skin cancer issues. To the best of my knowledge, they were all farmers. Whether they farmed cotton, soybeans, corn or any other crop, it appeared that skin cancer had become an epidemic in the area.

Baking farmers

Of course, this makes sense. These folks spent much of their lives outside, in the sun. Every hot, humid hour with the baking sun had taken its toll. There was a very dangerous equation in play here. These folks who had the most amount of cumulative sun exposure had the least opportunity for health care and sun care education. Most were men who seemed to be the most resistant to see a medical professional or take precautions.

Not just a city or suburban issue

It has made intuitive sense for me to rail against the evils of long days of unprotected sun exposure at the beach, at a ball game, or company picnic, but what about our rural friends? According to a recent article, these people are caught in the crosshairs of damaging UV sunrays like no other.

The article notes that folks in the agricultural industry are in jeopardy. “Farmers are definitely in the most high-risk skin cancer category. They deal with a daily grind in direct sun often for seven days per week at the sunniest times of the year,” says Dr. David Roy, a dermatologist and spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation.1 According to the article, three types of skin cancer are commonly found on farmers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.1 All three are in play in the country.

Recommendations for sun protection

Dr. Roy recommends that farmers limit sun exposure whenever possible, supplemented with long sleeves, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen that is reapplied regularly.1 He notes that some sun damage can be reversed even after years of exposure to burning rays through new preventative practice.1 Farmers are notorious for being up before the sun and finishing their labor as the sun goes down. These folks feed the world and they are at risk. We can help.

Spreading the word about skin protection

So, what does this mean for us? As an advocate for skin protection and a melanoma survivor, I believe that it is imperative to get the word out to rural areas of our country. It does present a challenge as the Internet connection is not readily available in many areas. Information about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare won’t disseminate as quickly or easily to these hard-working folks who sit in tractors all day, nearly every day of the week. Do your part and reach out to those at risk outside of our cities and suburbs.

The farmer’s tan re-thought

So, when I go down to Mississippi now I will be sure to bring sunscreen and my education piece that can help them. The farmer’s tan may be a colloquial phrase for tan arms below the sleeve, but for many, it can be a life-threatening reality.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.