Does your profession make you look older? (Photo: Getty Images)
Your job may stress you out, but that’s not all it’s doing. Certain work factors can actually accelerate the onset of skin aging symptoms like wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin – and even increase your likelihood of skin cancer.
“The more ultra violet (UV) exposure you get, the faster your skin is going to age. And if you’re working in a very dry environment – with heavy heat in the winter, low humidity, or any kind of smoke, your skin will also age faster,” says Darrell Rigel, MD, medical director at Schweiger Dermatology in New York City.
So is it time to grab wrinkle cream along with your morning cup of coffee? Check to see if your job is on the list below, along with expert tips for how you can help counter the harmful effects of the workday if you or a loved one is in one of these positions.
We know that getting sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer — but perhaps surprisingly, so can lack of sunlight, which is associated with lower vitamin D levels. A study in Medical Hypotheses found that workers who stay inside all day have more incidences of melanoma. The research suggests office workers have lower vitamin D levels because only UVA rays pass through windows, while vitamin D-containing UVB rays that help boost the immune system don’t pass through glass. Regular 9 to 5-ers also tend to make up sun time in prolonged bursts on weekends and vacations, which also increases risk of skin cancer when there’s too much of a good thing, says Rigel.
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Pilots and Flight Attendants
Radiation exposure related to high altitudes may be why pilots and flight attendants have higher skin cancer rates nearing those who have used indoor tanning beds, reports a study in JAMA Dermatology. While the average American has a 2 percent risk of developing melanoma, according to the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that melanoma is about twice as common in flight crew. “This is very worrisome and awareness needs to increase and protective measurements must be undertaken,” said the study’s lead author, Martina Sanlorenzo, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.
Truck and Taxi Drivers
Many people don’t realize that harmful UV rays stream in through vehicle windows. “Those who work in transportation are most susceptible – think truck drivers, cab drivers, air traffic control and train conductors,” says Julius Few, MD, a plastic surgeon based in Chicago and New York. They may also have more signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging skin on the left side of their face; just look at this crazy example. “Wearing a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every single day will help prevent both aging and reduce your risk of skin cancer, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing – and don’t forget the back of your hands when driving!” advises Montclair, New Jersey dermatologist, Jeanine B. Downie, MD.
Constant exposure to noxious fumes from flames damages skin cell DNA and can consequently increase the chance of a skin cancer diagnosis in firefighters, along with other major cancers of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. The alarming findings come from one of the largest studies of its kind, published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, and surveying 30000 fire fighters across the country. “Wash smoke off as quickly as possible,” advises Rigel. Equipment like gloves and helmets should be cleaned diligently after shifts, and experts also strongly recommend storing work materials separate from living quarters.
Farmers and Oil-Refinery Workers
Those who toil the land for long hours are at risk for non-melanoma skin cancer due to the UV radiation they come in contact with continuously, according to Rigel. Heavy sweating may also contribute to skin damage, as perspiration increases a person’s photosensitivity – which leads to a higher risk for burns, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. “Oil refinery workers should wash down after hours to get all the hydrocarbons off skin, and farmers should wear hats and sun protective clothing every day,” advises Rigel, adding that both should be especially mindful of wearing good daily sunscreen protection.
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