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Sunsmart farming community still feels the burn

Kiwi farmers outdoors eight hours a day for over ten years

Sunsmart farming community still feels the burn

Auckland, 21st May, 2006 – New independent research shows the New Zealand farming community takes sun protection seriously but long outdoor hours are making sunburn unavoidable. The research commissioned by MoleMap New Zealand shows 84% of farmers spend more than 5 hours a day outside and 56% more than 8 hours a day. It also shows 84% have spent more than 10 years doing outdoor work and 83% have frequently experienced skin peeling after sunburn.

MoleMap General Manager Gavin Foulsham says the research shows farmers are generally aware of the dangers of prolonged sun exposure and are taking action to prevent skin cancer. “Three quarters of farmers regularly wear wide brimmed hats and the vast majority take other steps like applying sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and covering up. Even with this approach the long days and years of sun exposure still make their mark with half having experienced skin cancer personally or through an immediate family member.”

The research indicates the most actively cautious regions are Gisborne, Taranaki and Hawkes Bay where the farmers take a variety of steps to protect themselves. In general women are more likely to protect their skin than men, and higher risk fair skinned people are more active at protecting themselves. Two thirds have checked their skin for changes and one third have been checked by a health professional.

“We have to acknowledge for farming and many other outdoor professions staying away from the sun is just not possible and in general New Zealand farmers are taking practical precautions when they can. Given the high incidence of skin cancer amongst this group we would actively encourage them to check their skin for changes and to get their skin examined by an expert every year,” says Mr Foulsham.

Another interesting result is that older farmers perceive themselves to be at lower risk of melanoma than younger ones, possibly not recognising the cumulative impact of the sun. This may be the result of a younger generation which has grown up with the Sunsmart message.

The research showed a large number of farmers now provide their workforce with covered areas to work in which provide sun protection and a surprising number even provided sunscreen. Federated Farmers President Charlie Pedersen says farmers have recognised the hazards posed by the New Zealand sun for many years.

“Farmers often jokingly call skin cancer an occupational hazard but many of them have seen and experienced the impact it has. New Zealand farms take a responsible attitude to sun exposure and most already document the sun as an occupational hazard and have measures in place to limit its effects.”


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