The month of May kicks off the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America’s (LHSFNA) annual Sun Sense Skin Cancer Prevention Campaign.

“Educating our membership on the dangers of overexposure to the sun is the main objective of our Sun Sense program,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Providing information and materials to our leadership, who in turn pass it along to our members, is essential to the success of our campaign.”

The LHSFNA reaches out to the Laborers-AGC training centers, LIUNA regional offices and district councils and the regional health and safety funds who disperse the information to local unions and their members.

The materials made available during this campaign include:

  1. neck flaps
  2. lip balm
  3. sunscreen packets
  4. assorted posters
  5. health alert cards (English and Spanish)
  6. melanoma bookmarks
  7. UV cards

“The UV card is a new product for this year’s campaign,” says Angela Brennan, LHSFNA Health Promotion Division Associate Director. “When it is exposed to sunlight, it changes colors to demonstrate the harmfulness of the sun’s rays.”

Risks of Solar Exposure

Exposure to the sun can cause serious problems:

  • Cancer – Skin cancer has long been associated with exposure to the sun’s radiation. Three types of skin cancer exist: basal, squamous and melanoma. Squamous – if it metastasizes (spreads elsewhere in the body) – and melanoma can be fatal. All skin cancer is more controllable when caught and treated early.
  • Premature aging of skin – Repeated exposure to the sun damages elastin fibers in the skin and accelerates the aging process. Other signs of damage are brown spots or patches. The damage is irreversible.
  • Reactions – Some medications (cosmetics, too) can cause or increase an individual’s sensitivity to sunlight. Careless exposure to the sun may be harmful to people with certain diseases, such as tuberculosis, inherited skin diseases and alcoholism. Some people have allergic reactions (rashes, itchiness) to excessive sun.
  • Eye damage – The incidence of cataracts increases with sun exposure. Corneal sunburn and growths on the surface of the eye are thought to be related to long-term sun exposure. It is best to choose sunglasses that block 99 percent of UV light.

Common Sense Prevention

  • Wear protective clothing (tight weave, long-sleeves, broad-brimmed hats and/or neck flaps) over exposed parts of the body whenever possible; pay attention to the face, ears and back of the neck.
  • Use sunscreens with an SPF factor of at least 15 and apply 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Sunscreens should be reapplied every two to three hours.
  • When possible, avoid the direct sun, especially during the peak hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
  • Always check medications and cosmetics to see if they increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Sun protection is essential. Because Laborers spend a majority of their time outdoors on jobsites, they must wear sunscreen or clothing to protect themselves. Skin cancer prevention should be part of every Laborer’s daily routine.

For further information regarding the Sun Sense skin cancer campaign, please contact Angela Brennan or the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division at 202-628-5465.