Sun A Killer

Waterside worker Billy Walker died last week from cancer - a melanoma he'd got from labouring under the sun on the ships deck, the wharves and the glare of the water that spread into his brain, his lungs, his bones.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

At least two in every three Australians will develop skin cancer before the age of 70.  If you're an outdoor worker, the likelihood of developing skin cancer is even greater.

Maritime workers are at risk, more than any other.  They labour under the glare of the sun and the reflections of the water all year round.

UV is a well-recognised workplace hazard for employees who will spend all or part of their working day outdoors. 

An estimated 1.2 million Australians who work outdoors face a significantly higher risk because typically they will receive 5 - 10 times more sun exposure yearly than indoor workers.

But most skin cancer deaths can be prevented through the use of sun protection and early detection.

SunSmart Manager, Sue Heward, said; "Always use a combination of sun protection when UV levels reach 3 or above and take extra care between 10am and 3pm as these are particularly high risk times of the day. It is also important to get familiar with your skin and look out for unusual changes."

Unlike many other forms of cancer, skin cancer is often visible - making it easier to detect in the early stages. Early detection is crucial if skin cancer is to be cured. 

Skin cancers may appear as a changed skin growth - in colour, shape or texture, or an open skin wound that won't heal. Common skin cancers may look like red, brown, black or bluish patches, sores, spots, ulcers or lumps. Melanoma may appear as an existing mole that has changed, a dark-coloured spot with rough edges or a small collection of dark bumps.

The most common sites for melanoma are the lower legs for women and the trunk for men. Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are usually found on areas often exposed to the sun.

Ms Heward, said; "It is important to look for early signs of skin cancer. Check your skin regularly using a hand-held mirror to check the skin on your back and the back of your neck - or ask someone else to have a look for you. If you notice any changes in your skin or you are concerned, see their doctor."

Sunscreen should always be used in combination with all five sun protection measures when UV radiation is at damaging levels. So Slip (on clothing), slop (on sunscreen), slap (on a hat), seek (shade) and slide (on sunglasses).

Organisations can join the fight against skin cancer by developing a sun protection policy and implement procedures to protect workers from UV overexposure.

SunSmart can help employers develop and implement their programs by providing guidelines and policy, resources and education services on working safely in the sun.  

For further information visit SUNSMART