Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the United States. Agricultural and construction workers (ACWs) may be at increased risk for skin cancer because of high levels of ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sun. This is the first study that uses nationally representative data to assess sun-protection behaviors among ACWs.
We analyzed data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey Cancer Control Supplement to examine the prevalence of sun-protection behaviors among ACWs. We calculated national, weighted, self-reported prevalence estimates. We used χ 2 tests to assess differences between ACWs by industry and occupation.
Most of the 2,298 agricultural and construction workers studied were male (by industry, 72.4% in agriculture and 89.3% in construction; by occupation, 66.1% in agriculture and 95.6% in construction) and non-Hispanic white. About one-third had at least 1 sunburn in the past year. The prevalence of sunscreen use and shade seeking was low and did not significantly differ among groups, ranging from 15.1% to 21.4% for sunscreen use and 24.5% to 29.1% for shade seeking. The prevalence of wearing protective clothing was significantly higher among agricultural workers than among construction workers by industry (70.9% vs 50.7%) and occupation (70.5% vs 53.0%).
Our findings could be used to improve occupational health approaches to reducing skin cancer risk among ACWs and to inform education and prevention initiatives addressing skin cancer. Sun-safety initiatives may include modifying work sites to increase shade and adding sun safety to workplace policies and training. Employers can help reduce occupational health inequities and protect workers by creating workplaces that facilitate sun protection.