By Joe Gorelick, MSN, FNP-C

Outdoor workers are far more likely to get sunburned and tanned, and therefore may be at increased risk for skin cancer, compared to the average American, a new survey confirms. In fact, half of outdoor workers reported being sunburned in 2023, compared to 36% of the general population.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) conducted the survey of more than 1,000 US adults and released results in recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May.

Findings show that one in 10 outdoor workers had sunburns severe enough to cause blisters¾a rate double that of the general population. Nearly 80% of outdoor workers got a tan or darker skin as a result of sun exposure, compared to 67% of Americans overall.

“Since most outdoor workers are exposed to the sun during peak hours of the day, it’s vital they adopt sun protection measures as part of their daily routine to safeguard against skin cancer,” said board-certified dermatologist Bruce Brod, MD, MHCI FAAD, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Those who work outside are more likely to protect themselves by wearing hats, but not significantly more likely to use sunscreen, according to the survey. Fifty-nine percent reported wearing a hat, a 12% increase over Americans overall.

Survey responses revealed that outdoor workers are more likely to believe tanning myths. Thirty-one percent believe a base tan will prevent sunburn, (versus 23% of all Americans who believe this). A similar proportion of outdoor workers believes that tanning is safe if you don’t burn, compared to 20 percent of Americans overall.

“If you have a lot of moles or growths on your skin that you’re not sure about, a family history of skin cancer, you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun, or you’ve had even one severe sunburn, you owe it to yourself to get your skin checked by a board-certified dermatologist,” said Dr. Brod. 

The Dermatology Education Foundation reminds patients and those currently without a dermatology care provider that well trained NPs and PAs who work collaboratively with a board-certified dermatologist can perform skin exams.