Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. A new research suggests that military personnel who served in the glaring desert sunlight of Iraq and Afghanistan face an increased risk of skin cancer, due not only to the desert climate, but also a lack of sun protection. Several factors contributed to the increased risk, including 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.
Dermatologist Jennifer Powers of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said, "Our study has identified factors that put veterans at risk for skin cancer, including melanoma."
For the study, the research team analyzed survey data from 212 veterans regarding sun exposure and protection during their last deployment. Only 13% of participants said that they routinely used sunscreen, while 87% reported their sunscreen use as 'sporadic' or 'sometimes'. Moreover, only 23% of veterans indicated the military had made them very aware of the risks of skin cancer. The researchers found that 77% of respondents spent four or more hours per day working in bright sun and 63% had at least one sunburn during deployment.
The findings are published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.