Heatwave skin cancer warning for farmers

Sean Cleary, Michael John Mullins and Joe Glynn making a cock of hay near Tuam, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan
Sean Cleary, Michael John Mullins and Joe Glynn making a cock of hay near Tuam, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

Eilish O’Regan

Skin cancer now accounts for nearly one in three forms of the disease diagnosed in men annually – in many cases as a result of sun exposure linked to their outdoor jobs in farming and construction.

The current heatwave conditions leave them at particular risk from harmful rays unless they take sun-protection measures.

Around 31pc of all kinds of cancers diagnosed in men, and 29pc in women, this year will be found on the skin, according to the Irish Cancer Society.

The Irish Farmers’ Association warned farmers to wear a shirt with a collar and long shorts.

They should also wear a hat that gives shade to the face, neck and ears. They should always carry sunglasses on the farm and make sure they give UV protection.

They should also try to plan jobs so that they are in the shade when UV rays are strongest – from 11am to 3pm.

Farmers are also urged to check the UV index every day to help plan to protect their skin from UV damage. The index tells us how strong UV radiation is on any given day.

The Health and Safety Authority has also warned employers to try to limit the exposure of outdoor workers to the sun when it is at its strongest. They should do indoor work if possible at this time.

Employers should ensure breaks are taken out of direct sunlight and encourage employees to cover up, keep clothing on with sleeves down and collars up, and wear garments with a high ultraviolet protection factor. Workers should not strip off clothing when it is sunny and employers should provide sunscreen on site which needs to be reapplied every two hours.


The basic advice holds true for the entire population as the country heads into another hot spell this week.

Overall, 10,857 men and women were diagnosed with skin cancer last year.

Dr Patrick Ormond, a dermatologist at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, said: “Over 75pc of the population in Ireland have ‘Celtic skin type’ where we freckle and burn easily.

“We tan with difficulty, or not at all, and we carry the highest risk of getting skin cancer. People with a fair complexion need to be extra careful in the sun. 

“We can protect our skin by covering up (hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved clothing), seeking shade and using a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30. 

“There’s not much you can do about your skin type or genetics, but there are two things you can do to protect your skin for the future and reduce the risk of skin cancer – no sun burning and no sunbathing. Protect yourself from sun exposure today, and your skin will thank you for the rest of your life.”

To protect yourself you can:

  • Seek shade: UV rays are the most intense between 11am and 3-4pm, so limit sun exposure during this time;
  • Cover up: wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. Some 95pc of UV rays are blocked by cotton. Wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades the head, neck, ears and face.
  • Wear sunglasses that block as close to 100pc UVA and UVB as possible. Sunglasses are just as important for children as adults.

Online Editors