Irish farmers have been warned of the risks of UV sunlight, as they have a three-times higher cancer mortality than blue- or white-collar workers.

UV sunlight skin cancer is a significant cause of this heightened death rate.

Farmers appear to have a number of misunderstandings of the dangers of UV sunlight risks and protective measures, according to consultant in public health medicine Dr Triona McCarthy.

Farmers are vulnerable to this cancer risk due to the length of time they work outdoors and their self-employed work status, where controls and social supports are less readily applicable, she stated.


To improve farmers’ knowledge related to occupational skin cancer, Teagasc is holding an online information session on Wednesday 21 April.

All farmers are invited to attend and the link to register can be found here.

The webinar will be chaired by Teagasc health and safety specialist Dr John McNamara.

“Teagasc research indicates that farmers give health issues, including risks from UV sunlight lower priority than other health and safety issues,” McNamara said.

CSO figures from 2018 suggest that almost one in four (26.6%) of skin cancer deaths in Ireland are to farming, outdoor and construction workers.

If you work outdoors, you are exposed to two to three times more UV than someone who works indoors, so you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.


When the UV index is three and above, skin needs to be protected, even if it is cloudy.

UV is strongest between April and September, and between 11am and 3pm.

The UV index can be checked on the Met Eireann website.

Dr McCarthy stated that there is a lot that can be done to reduce sun cancer risk.

“Review your UV exposure – how long are you outside for during the day and how many days of the week? Use protective clothing that covers your exposed skin, including long-sleeved, collared shirts, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

“To help protect your skin, additionally use broad-spectrum water-resistant sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ and apply every two hours.”