Serving in desert terrain ups soldier’s skin cancer risk

New York, Aug 4 (IANS) Military personnel who served in the glaring desert sunlight of Iraq and Afghanistan returned home with an increased risk of skin cancer, due not only to the desert climate, but also a lack of sun protection, new research has found.

“Our study has identified factors that put veterans at risk for skin cancer, including melanoma,” said dermatologist Jennifer Powers of the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee.

There were several factors contributing to the increased risk, including not only the desert and more equatorial latitudes, but also the length of sunlight exposure day to day, and, among many service members, a lack of training regarding the dangers of sun exposure and limited access to sunscreen.

For the study, the researchers analysed survey data from 212 veterans regarding sun exposure and protection during their last deployment.

Only 13 percent of participants said they routinely used sunscreen, while 87 percent reported their sunscreen use as “sporadic” or “sometimes.”

Moreover, only 23 percent of veterans indicated the military had made them very aware of the risks of skin cancer.

The authors found that 77 percent of respondents spent four or more hours per day working in bright sun and 63 percent had at least one sunburn during deployment.

The findings were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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