It seems appropriate to again warn those in agricultural jobs, especially our audience focus of ag retailer employees, crop consultants and professional farm managers to be aware of the sun dangers. It was the Environmental Protection Agency that reminded me to write a warning reminder.

Although it seems outside the realm of the EPA’s focus, the EPA has worked with The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to promote “Don’t Fry Day,” which was May 22. EPA joins the council in recognizing the Friday before Memorial Day each year as Don’t Fry Day to highlight sun safety.

Even the sun peeking through for short periods of a day can be radiating damage to those outside, and those of us who have worked in agriculture know a lot of friends and acquaintances who have had skin cancer problems. Actually, I’m one of them who has had a few small-scale skin cancer surgeries because I caught the problems early.

The number one agricultural promotional giveaway, baseball caps, is a skin cancer promoter in my opinion. The baseball cap exposures the ears, face and neck to a whole lot of sun when ag workers are doing their jobs. I remember the days when the baseball cap with the mesh top was really popular; its only actual function was to shade the forehead and eyes.

My cancer problems come from driving tractors without cabs and wearing nothing on my head. My blonde hair would turn almost white in the summer. Today, skin cancer is showing up on my scalp, face and neck.

Each year in the United States, nearly five million people are treated for skin cancer, with an annual cost estimated at $8.1 billion. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. In fact, more people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year than with breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined, according to the EPA. Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources.

As summer quickly approaches, EPA wants Americans reminded about the dangers of skin cancer and has provided simple steps that can be taken to protect themselves against the UV sunlight that penetrates the earth’s ozone layer.

Applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing is about all you can do when required to be working outdoors. Apply a palm-full of sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to exposed skin about 15 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every two hours. Wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses also prevents sun damage.

Seek shade, not sun. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

More can be found on SunWise: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise