Military personnel have high risk of skin cancer

September 9, 2014

Members of the military have a high risk of contracting skin cancer, due in part to the climates where they are deployed, recent research suggests. And only a small portion of service members is aware of the risks of sun exposure.

Members of the military have a high risk of contracting skin cancer, due in part to the climates where they are deployed, recent research suggests. And only a small portion of service members is aware of the risks of sun exposure.

Researchers with Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee - who presented their findings recently at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin in Edinburgh, Scotland - found that 22 percent of military service members are “very aware” of the risks of UV exposure, according to a news release.

The Skin Cancer Foundation noted that 77 percent of military personnel reported exposure to bright sunlight for more than four hours per day, but only 27 percent had regular access to sunscreen. Nearly one-third of the military personnel reported having no access to sunscreen.

Among the study participants, 62 percent said they had gotten sunburned while deployed outside the United States. And while 29 percent of respondents reported a change in the shape, color or size of moles since deployment in tropical areas, only 4 percent had undergone a skin exam by a physician.

Previous research has indicated 34 percent of U.S. military veterans with melanoma had at some point been deployed in tropical climates, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. That compares to 6 percent of nonmilitary patients with melanoma who had spent time in tropical areas.

“This study shows that the vast majority of soldiers who are facing a high risk of skin cancer are unaware of what to do to protect themselves,” Allan Harrington, M.D., spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said in the news release.

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