Many Workers spend significant periods of time working outdoors.   This outdoor exposure during working hours can be a cause of Occupational Skin Disease.   If a cause of one’s Skin Disease is partially caused by work-related exposure, the Injured Worker is then able to make a claim for workers’ compensation claim and may be entitled to monetary compensation, temporary disability and permanent disability benefits, medical care, vocational rehabilitation benefits and death benefits.

“Currently, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime, the majority diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), which includes basal cell (BCC) and squamous cell (SCC) carcinomas.” Skin cancer as an occupational disease: the effect of ultraviolet and other forms of radiation Claudia C. Ramirez, MD, Daniel G. Federman, MD, and Robert S. Kirsner, MD

This article will discuss the nature of Sun Exposure Skin Diseases, What Occupations Are at Risk for Occupational Skin Disease, Statutes that Relate to Skin Disorders, and Case law discussing Skin Conditions.

What are Sun-Related Skin Diseases?

Sun Exposure can lead to various skin conditions. These include cancerous, pre-cancerous, and non-cancerous conditions. These can include photoaging -solar lentigo, wrinkles and loose or irregular skin. Pre-Cancerous Skin conditions include Actinic Keratosis.  Cancerous Conditions include Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma.

What Occupations are at Risk for Occupational Skin Disease?

Occupations at risk for Occupational Skin Disease include the following jobs: cabin attendants, construction workers, farmers, landscapers, physical education teachers, pilots, police officers, postal workers, roofers, telephone line workers, waterman, and welders.

What is Exposure? Are There Different Exposures?

“The damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation accumulate over the years. In general, the risk of developing skin cancer increases with the amount of time spent under the sun and the intensity of radiation. The intensity of radiation varies according to the season of the year, time of day, geographic location (latitude), elevation above sea level, reflection from surfaces (e.g., white sand or concrete, water, snow), stratospheric ozone, clouds, and air pollution.

Recent studies have focused on the effects of intermittent (short-term, occasional) sun exposure in comparison to chronic (long-term) exposure. It appears that the type of exposure may influence the type of cancer that develops. For example, intermittent solar exposure may be an important factor leading to the onset of basal cell carcinoma of the skin. …

In contrast, the relationship between squamous cell carcinoma and solar UVR appears to be quite different. For squamous cell tumours, high levels of chronic occupational sunlight exposure, especially in the 10 years prior to diagnosis, results in an elevated risk for this cancer in the highest exposure group.”

Besides Typical Sun Exposure, Are There Other Suspected Causes of Occupational Skin Disease?

Yes. Irradiation, Nonionizing Microwave Frequencies, Cosmic Radiation, and Ionized Radiation are also suspected causes of Occupational Skin Disease.

“Although sun exposure is thought to be a common etiologic factor, some studies have suggested alternative explanations, such as irradiation from the welding arc in welders, nonionizing microwave frequency radiation from radar use in police officers, and cosmic radiation in pilots and cabin attendants. Disturbances in circadian rhythm have also been suggested as having a role in the increased risk of skin cancer in pilots and cabin attendants and should be elucidated in future studies. Occupations in which there is an increased exposure to ionizing radiation, such as radiation technicians and radiologists, showed an increased risk for melanoma and NMSC. Surprisingly, there is a paucity of publications regarding skin cancer incidence amongst lifeguards, ski instructors, professional cyclists, and other professionals who spend time outside as part of their jobs. Ample evidence exists, however, that amongst selected occupations skin cancer is an important occupational disease.” Skin cancer as an occupational disease: the effect of ultraviolet and other forms of radiation Claudia C. Ramirez, MD, Daniel G. Federman, MD, and Robert S. Kirsner, MD

Are There Any Labor Code Sections which Support Claims of Occupational Skin Disease?

Yes. With respect to the present issue of Sun-Related Occupational Skin Disease, there is the Cancer presumption which applies to both certain Law Enforcement and Safety Officers.   This is Labor Code Section 3212.1. For an article discussing the Cancer Presumption, click here.

Is There Case Law Concerning Sun Exposure?

Yes. A sample of sun-related cases include issues such as: Defendant claiming non-industrial sun exposure as the source of nasal cancer. See County Sanitation District No. 2 vs. WCAB (2004) 69 C.C.C. 1463;  Defendant disputing CT injury date in which there was a claim of multiple CT injury dates. Injury was claimed as skin cancer caused by sun exposure. City of Vista vs WCAB (2017) 83 C.C.C. 95; also see City of Corona vs. WCAB  (1997) 62 C.C.C. 1693.   In the matter, “Applicant was treated by Shira Young, M.D., and was evaluated by James Lineback, M.D. Dr. Young felt that there was a probability that sunlight played a role in the development of Applicant’s skin cancer. Dr. Lineback opined that it was reasonably probable that the skin lesions were directly related to sunlight exposure.”

Are There Anything a Worker Should Do?

In my years of representing Injured Workers, one of the most tragic cases I ever had was a melanoma case.  While the melanoma initially appeared in a location on the body which was not exposed to the sun, the cancer turned out to be fatal.  Despite seeking advanced medical treatment, the worker died shortly after he opened his claim.

Early detection of the disease is of import.   If you do so, there is a chance for a successful recovery.

For all those who work in the sun or with skin issues, you should check your skin on a regular basis and seek medical attention. Per the Centers for Disease Control, “[a] change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers look the same.

For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma—“A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?  “B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged? “C” is for color. Is the color uneven? “D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea? “E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?”

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.


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