Working outdoors in Arizona requires keeping your skin healthy and protected from the harsh, unforgiving sun. With year-round warm weather and over 300 days of sunshine, cumulative sun exposure and skin damage pose serious risks for those who spend long hours outside, including a high chance of developing skin cancer. In fact, Arizona’s skin cancer rates are already above the U.S. national average.

Sun Safety Tips for Outdoor Workers

To defend against the sun’s UV rays and prevent skin cancer, you must take proper precautions.

1. Never go outside without your anti-skin cancer companion: sunscreen

Apply a water-resistant or sweat-proof broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF. Reapply it every two hours, especially if you exercised or went swimming. Sunscreen wears off over time due to water exposure, excessive heat, and abrasion from surfaces like towels. Pay extra attention to your face, ears, neck, hands, feet, and any exposed skin. Massage the product thoroughly until the skin absorbs it.

For optimal protection, apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen needs time to soak in and bond to your skin. This rule applies regardless of the sunscreen formula you use, be it mineral, chemical, or a combination of both.

In addition, remember to check your sunscreen’s expiration date before lathering it all over your skin. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of up to three years. Using expired sunscreen may fail to provide adequate protection from the sun’s UV rays. Discard any product that has changed in consistency, color, or developed an unpleasant smell. Also, beware of sunscreens with high levels of benzene – a carcinogen recently detected in 78 different sun-care products marketed in the United States.

2. Don’t forget to protect your lips

Both women and men can benefit from daily lip balm application with broad spectrum coverage. Staying moisturized and protected from the harsh elements is simply smart skincare, regardless of gender.

The sun’s harmful rays can damage the delicate skin on your lips, causing premature wrinkling, cracking, and even lip cancer. Apply a balm with an SPF of 15 or 30 to shield your lips from direct sun exposure. Reapply every two hours. Moreover, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which will help keep your lips plump and soft.

3. Choose work clothes with UV-blocking technology

Lightweight clothing can help block the sun while keeping you cool. Wear long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-protective sunglasses. If you work in construction, agriculture, or any occupation that demands staying outdoors, invest in clothing designed to block UVA and UVB rays for maximum skin defense. Clothes with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings of 15, 30, and 50+ block 93.3%, 96.7%, and 98% of ultraviolet light.

4. Beware of reflective surfaces, including glass, metal, concrete, etc.

Many construction materials are reflective and can amplify the sun’s UV rays on a worker’s skin. Avoid positioning yourself above or near reflective surfaces, and limit looking down at shiny tools and equipment. If work requires being around water – puddles, ponds, and other still water act as mirrors – take extra precautions to cover your skin and eyes. Wearing UV-blocking gear can also help block these harmful rays.

5. Manipulate your surroundings to create shade

During work hours, try to perform tasks under cover when applicable. For example, construction workers should take breaks in shaded areas, such as under a structure being built or a company vehicle. When using a tractor or other heavy equipment, position it to block the sun and cast a shadow over your work area. Also, if possible, bring an easy-to-assemble pop-up canopy to your workplace, which you can fold back up when not in use to avoid interfering with ongoing work.

Excessive sun exposure not only causes cancer-causing skin damage, but the associated heat stress can also cause lightheadedness, nausea, and, in severe cases, a stroke. Taking frequent breaks or working in shaded areas helps lower your core body temperature and reduces the risk of these issues. And, as always, drink plenty of water throughout the day.

6. Make time to examine your skin for signs of damage

As an outdoor worker in the sunny state of Arizona, you are at risk of developing skin cancer due to daily sun exposure. See a dermatologist in Buckeye, Arizona, if you notice any of the following warning signs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetrical moles or lesions: Skin cancers can have an irregular, asymmetrical shape. Report any moles or lesions with uneven, ragged edges, especially if they emerged from nowhere.
  • Border irregularity: Benign (noncancerous) moles typically have smooth, even borders. Conversely, skin cancers can have irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined borders.
  • Color variation: Malignant (cancerous) moles can have different colors within the same lesion. Be on the lookout for moles with shades of tan, brown, black, red, white, and blue.
  • Diameter larger than six millimeters: Any mole larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch in diameter) warrants a medical evaluation.
  • Elevation or thickness: Early skin cancer lesions often rise above the skin’s surface or feel firm or hard to the touch.
  • Evolving lesions: Any lesion that grows larger, bleeds, or changes in appearance requires examination by a top dermatologist in Phoenix, Arizona.

Further reading: How to Spot Skin Cancer and FAQs About Precancerous Skin

Remember, regularly checking your skin can save your life. Make skin self-exams a priority, and see your dermatologist annually for a professional skin check. Found early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma and non-melanoma is 99 percent. Be proactive and take control of your skin health today. Your life and livelihood depend on practicing sun protection for outdoor workers.

When Was Your Last Professional Skin Check?

Contact us to schedule a full-body skin check in Buckeye, AZ. Our board-certified dermatologists can identify skin abnormalities in their earliest, most treatable stage. We also provide effective skin cancer treatment options – from cryotherapy and Mohs surgery to superficial radiation therapy. As recognized leaders in skin cancer treatment and prevention, we continue to pioneer approaches grounded in the physiology of what the body needs to fight diseases.