Exploring Sun Protection Behaviors Among U.S. Hispanic Outdoor Workers

photo of sunglasses

New Brunswick, N.J. May 1, 2022 – Exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can increase the risk of developing sun related-skin cancer– the most common type of cancer nationwide according to the American Cancer Society. Individuals who work outside are at increased risk for skin cancer due to excessive exposure to UV radiation. In a recent study, researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, examined both sunburns and sun protection behaviors among male Hispanic outdoor day laborers in the Northeast U.S.

Corresponding author Carolyn J. Heckman, PhD, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and first author Zhaomeng Niu, PhD, research associate at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, share more on the work which was published in the February 2022 online edition of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (DOI: 10.3390/ijerph19052524).

Describe the work and tell us what the team discovered.
We conducted a survey study among male Hispanic outdoor laborers in New Jersey to examine their sun protection behaviors and sunburns when working during the past summer. We found that male Hispanic outdoor laborers in New Jersey did not engage in sufficient sun protection behaviors (i.e., sunglasses use, staying in the shade, wearing sunscreen, wearing a wide-brimmed hat). Moreover, lower education level, higher levels of skin sensitivity to the sun, any symptom of heat illness, fewer barriers to wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and not wearing a wide-brimmed hat were associated with a greater number of sunburns.

What are key challenges in promoting sun safety practices of outdoor day laborers?
Some key challenges include length of working hours in the sun due to occupation, barriers to wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and workers' perception that skin looks better with a tan.

What interventions are needed to promote skin cancer prevention among this population?
Labor and employment policies are needed to protect workers. Health interventions or educational programs targeting improving knowledge about skin cancer and sun protection and promoting different sun protection behaviors such as wearing sunscreen, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses are needed to promote skin cancer prevention among male Hispanic outdoor laborers.


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