Solar Protection Vital for Laborers

Published by: NJ Laborers on 01/07/2012

Excerpt from Lifelines Newsletter

This time of year, when the construction industry gets into full swing, it is essential for Laborers who work outdoors to always wear sunscreen. 

  “Warm weather and extended hours increase the risk of skin cancer, “says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “Heredity, exposure to toxic chemicals and therapeutic radiation treatments can also trigger this disease, but the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the main cause. Sunscreen and protective clothing are worksite musts.”

Every year, over a million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. and more than 75,000 in Canada. One in five Americans and one in seven Canadians develop this disease. Treatment is costly, exceeding $1.5 billion. Last year, skin cancer killed over 11,000 Americans and took more than 1,200 Canadian lives.

 Skin cancer often develops on parts of the body that are directly exposed to the sun – or to other ultraviolet (UV) sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps. Common areas include the back, neck, arms, hands, legs, scalp, face, nose, lips and ears. However, skin cancer can also appear on less exposed parts of the body such as the palms, beneath fingernails and toenails, between toes and on the genitals. These are places where a form of skin cancer called melanoma tends to appear most often in African Americans, Latinos and Asians. However, all forms of skin cancer can show up on anyone anywhere.

“Prevention and early detection are essential,” says O’Sullivan. “ Examine your skin every two to three months. Any change is a warning. Also, have an annual skin check performed by your health care provider.”

The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of the disease.

  • Basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer, can be easily treated and is the least likely to spread if detected early:
    • Pearly, waxy bump on face, ear or neck
    • Flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion on  chest or back
  • Squamous cell carcinoma spreads more readily than basal cell:
    • Firm, red nodule on face, lips, ears, neck, hands or arms
    • Flat lesion with scaly, crusted surface on face, ears, neck, hands or arms
  • Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body including in an existing mole:
    • Brownish spot with darker speckles
    • Mole that changes in color, size, feel or bleeds
    • Lesion with irregular border and red, white, blue or blue-black spots
    • Shiny, firm, dome-shaped bumps
    • Dark lesions on palms, soles, fingertips, toes and  mucus membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina and anus

Skin cancer does not always cause pain and while not all skin changes are cancerous, an exam by a health care provider is the only way to make an accurate assessment. Skin cancer may be treatable when detected early and often can be prevented with simple-to-use protections. Remember to apply sunscreen liberally and often, examine your skin regularly, report any changes in your skin or a mole to your doctor and try and avoid midday and high sun exposures.


Skin cancer’s
"ABCDE" Warning Signs
of melanoma

Asymmetry: one-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

Borders: the edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.

Colors: the color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown, black, pink, red, white or blue.

Diameter: the spot is larger than six mm, the size of a pencil eraser or larger.

Evolution: change has occurred in size, shape, color, height or bleeding, itching or crusting.


Free sunscreen products

Lip balm, neck flaps, towelettes and health alerts in English and Spanish are available to LIUNA training centers and local unions through the LHSFNA’s Sun Sense Program. Additional sun protection products from Solar Protective Factory, Inc. are available at 20 percent discount by going to and entering LHSF20.