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Construction workers warned about risk of skin cancer

Skin cancer in construction workers could be as common as asbestos-related disease, warns new research.
Britain's 2.4 million construction workers could be at risk this summer the Society of Occupational Medicine has warned following a report in the scientific journal Occupational Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Manchester found that some construction workers were up to nine times more likely to get skin cancer than other workers from a similar social group and background. They have a higher risk due to long periods working outside in direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays reflected from nearby surfaces such as concrete. The study also reveals that labourers in building and construction trades have significantly increased incidence of other health conditions because of their work compared with other workers.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Henry Goodall, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: 'Neglecting to cover up under the hot sun can be just as dangerous as forgetting to wear a hard hat. We need to send a clear message that the days of the topless builder are over. Skin cancer may take several years to develop and it is often a young person's disease, which can devastate a young family.'

Dr Raymond Agius, who led the research team, said: 'Construction workers are an important focus of our research. Many are unaware that their work can put their health at risk of a whole range of conditions including asbestos induced tumours, serious skin conditions and skin cancer.'

The Society of Occupational Medicine whose journal published the study claimed that by prioritising and targeting employees who work in the construction sector with preventive measures, lives can be saved. 'Workers in the construction industry suffer from a lack of occupational health provision and this also needs to be addressed and improved,' claimed Dr Goodall.

A separate study also published in Occupational Medicine highlights the importance of employer-led sun safety interventions in the construction industry. The team who carried out the research found that younger men were particularly likely to avoid wearing shirts. However, after appropriate training workers were more likely to adopt measures such as applying sun screen, drinking plenty of water, wearing long sleeved loose fitting tops and regularly checking their skin for changes.

'This study shows that there is a clear benefit to promoting simple sun safety measures to builders and other construction workers. Our study has found that younger men, in particular, need to be educated. Construction companies should engage with their workers to promote sun protection behaviours' said Mr Madgwick who conducted this research.

NHS statistics show that the number of people suffering from skin cancer has risen dramatically over the past 30 years.

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19 July 2011

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