By: Melanie Forti, Programs Director

The word cancer can be overwhelming and usually causes a negative feeling among people; ranking from fear, anxiety, worry, and much more.   According to the American Cancer Society, more than two million cases of sun-related skin cancer are diagnosed yearly in the United States.

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

Skin cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the body, which include the face, ears, neck, lips, and hands.  It is very rare for skin cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

Farmworkers are exposed to the sun anywhere between 8 to 12 hours a day while working in the fields.  Their risk of suffering of skin cancer is higher than the rest of the population due to the nature of their job, and to the exposure to extreme sun and pesticides.  Agricultural pesticide applicators are twice as likely to contract melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, according to a new scientific study. Evidence suggests that frequent use of pesticides could raise the risk of melanoma

The Wake Forest University School of Medicine studies of Hispanic farmworkers in North Carolina found that more than three out of four workers had skin disease and needed more information about how to prevent common skin conditions, as well as potentially deadly diseases such as skin cancer.

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Early detection is key.  Providing workers with the knowledge about skin cancer is vital in order to prevent or to treat a worker that already has skin cancer.   Farmworkers can minimize the potential of suffering from  skin cancer by wearing loose, light clothing to block out the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays; a hat to protect the face, scalp, and neck; sunglasses to protect skin around the eyes; and, most important, sunscreen marked SPF 15 or greater on all exposed skin.


In order to detect whether or not you have a skin cancer it is important auto-exam yourself from head to toes every month.    When conducting an auto-exam, search for any early warning signs, such as:

  • A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
  • A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture, appears after age 21
  • A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
  • An open sore that does not heal within three weeks

If you found something unusual or you are not sure, don’t panic.  Skin cancer is very common and can be cured surgically.  However, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor immediately.  The sooner you tackle the problem, the better it will be for your health.