SunSmart is warning Victorian farmers and rural outdoor workers to remain vigilant about using sun protection over the coming months.
New data released today shows that melanoma incidence rates among men and women in rural Victoria are more than one third higher than for those in urban areas, putting this demographic in the most high-risk group for skin cancer in Victoria.1
Overall, rural Victorians are at significantly higher risk than the urban population, with an incidence rate of 36 cases per 100,000 compared to 26 cases per 100,000 for urban dwellers.
Sue Heward, SunSmart Manager, said: "From 2005-2008 more than 2,700 rural Victorians (1,503 men and 1,216 women) were newly diagnosed with melanoma and these figures don't include non melanoma skin cancers.
"The higher rates of skin cancer in rural Victoria are extremely concerning. In order to highlight the seriousness of skin cancer to Victoria's rural community and remind farmers to protect themselves, SunSmart is re-launching its 'Protect your farm's most important asset - you' campaign."
"Given UV levels will remain high across Victoria over the new few months, it could take as little as 16 minutes to get sunburnt. It is critical that Victorian farmers and rural outdoor workers remember that sun protection is needed outside of the peak summer period, even on cooler, cloudy days."
It is estimated that around 1.2 million Australians who work outdoors face an increased risk of skin cancer. Employees in the agriculture, forestry and fishing and construction industries have the highest exposure to sunlight on a typical workday.
"We know that it's not always convenient to stop what you're doing to put a hat on and re-apply sunscreen, but by taking the time to ensure you are being sun safe, you are protecting not just your own health but the future of your farm," said Ms Heward.
"A combination of sun protection messages is crucial, never rely on just one - wear SPF 30+ sunscreen, broad brimmed hats, clothing that covers as much skin as possible and sunglasses. Wherever possible stick to doing jobs in the shade or under cover through the middle of the day when the UV is at its most intense."
Victorian Farmer, Les, who owned and ran a farm in Kotupna before getting diagnosed with skin cancer, is well aware of the risks faced by farmers.
"One day I find a small bump on my forehead, the next day I'm getting chemo and facing months in hospital. I was forced to sell up," he said.
"It's so easy to prevent skin cancer. We farmers really should make the effort to protect ourselves. Take it from me, don't risk losing your farm."
Ms Heward warned farmers to keep an eye out for early signs of skin cancer as the sooner it's detected, the more likely it can be successfully treated.
"Check your skin regularly and as soon as you notice any changes, visit your GP," she said.
The 'Protect your farm's most important asset - you' campaign will run until mid-April 2011.
In conjunction with the Weekly Times, SunSmart is asking farmers and rural outdoor workers to tell us their top SunSmart tip and win.
SunSmart prize packs worth up to the value of $1500 RRP are up for grabs. Protect your farm's most important asset - You - by entering at http://www.sunsmart.com.au/ for your chance to win the latest sun protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and portable shade.
For more information about the campaign and the competition, go to http://www.sunsmart.com.au/ or call SunSmart at 9635 5148.
1 Source: the Victorian Cancer Registry 2011