A new study published in May in the journal BMC Dermatology has linked high temperatures to a possible increase in the risk of developing cancer, which may affect those who work outside all day. When we consider skin cancer and the outdoors, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays automatically come to mind as the key contributing factor, but researchers are finding that it’s not just radiation that’s a problem, but the heat itself, at a high enough temperature.
Scientists at Edith Cowan University’s melanoma research group based in Western Australia discovered that skin cells exposed to UV light and temperatures greater than 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) had significant cell damage. When compared to those who spent time in temperatures even two degrees lower, the difference was noticeable. Something happens to cells at that higher threshold, but only to the cells that make up the upper layers of the skin.
The findings also suggest that warmer temperatures prevent the development of a tumor-suppressing protein that is responsible for repairing damaged cells. Based on these new findings, the researchers realize that those who work outside in high temperatures have a greater chance of developing melanoma and other skin cancers than those who do not.
This information could help develop methods of preventing skin cancer in outdoor workers, such as those who work in construction, mining, and agriculture. However, the lead researcher says that the findings are preliminary and more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions can be made.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Outdoor Workers
There are ways to prevent skin cancer in those who work outdoors. Sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer, so when going outside to work for prolonged periods, there are three key prevention factors to consider.
Covering up and wearing sun-protective clothing is crucial to keeping damaging UV rays off of your skin. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and long skirts are advised, as is clothing made of material that won’t allow the sun’s light to penetrate. Look for clothes with a tight weave; nothing sheer or transparent. And wear a hat to keep the sun off of your face.
Working in the shade is the best solution, but if that’s not possible then try not to work in the sunlight between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when it’s at peak intensity.
Using an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen when outside in high temperatures will help deflect UV rays and prevent them from absorbing into the skin, possibly causing cellular damage and skin cancer. If you’re sweating a lot, reapply sunscreen more often. Make sure to apply it to the face, lips, forehead, back of the neck, and ears. If working near water, sand, snow, or concrete, more care will need to be taken as UV radiation bounces off these substances.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Calapre, L., et al., “Heat-Mediated Reduction of Apoptosis in UVB-Damaged Keratinocytes in vitro and in Human Skin ex vivo,” BMC Dermatology, 2016; doi:10.1186/s12895-016-0043-4.