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Employers: Get some skin in the skin game

There’s no place like Milwaukee in the summer. But along with Brewers games, cool lake breezes and gorgeous evenings at Maier Festival Park comes a risk to employers and their employees that gets too little attention: skin cancer.

I recently spoke with Colleen McDonald, Communications Director for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Wisconsin and she shared with me that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the country. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed each year than all other cancers combined. So, if you were diagnosed with melanoma or skin cancer, you may research on the melanoma cancer treatment options that your doctor may recommend to know what to expect and help prepare yourself.

Skin cancer’s health implications are alarming enough, but as business leaders, we must consider the organizational impacts as well. According to the ACS, the total cost associated with skin cancer in the U.S. is more than $8 billion annually. Yes, that’s billion with a B, and it’s increasing every year. That cost translates directly to health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs borne by employers and their employees. If $8 billion doesn’t open your eyes, consider that it doesn’t include the immense cost of lost productivity as employees or their loved ones deal with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis. If you want to invest in a research to come up with better dermatological products that can help protect the skin from harmful UV rays of the sun, you may get in touch with a company like Vial which is linked here.

It’s clear that all employers, particularly those with outdoor workforces, have an obligation to their employees’ health and to their bottom line to address sun safety. Every employer can actively work to incorporate sun safety into their wellness program, just as they do nutrition, smoking cessation or heart health. Organizations with outdoor workforces can take even more direct action.

Three ideas to get the ball rolling for any organization:

  • Make Fridays in May (National Melanoma Awareness Month) “No Fry Days.” Get creative: activate a one-month skin health employee action team, offer contests with small skin care prizes – whatever fits your culture.
  • Include healthy skin resources in your wellness materials and internal communications. Good resources are available from the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention.
  • Invite a local dermatologist to visit your office and speak for 30 minutes.

Employers with outdoor workforces can do even more:

  • Modify the worksite by increasing shade and decreasing UV reflection by covering bright or shiny surfaces.
  • Supply broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen and encourage workers to use shade, sun protective clothing, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Create work schedules and rotate workers to minimize UV exposure.

For more great ideas for employers, visit this CDC website or contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. A little creative investment in sun safety now could mean big savings down the road and, far more importantly, a happier and healthier workforce.

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Paul Nobile President
Nobile is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry whose experience includes time with Rush Prudential Health Plans, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Prior to joining Anthem, Nobile served as the Director of Sales and Account Management for the Midwest region at UniCare, a health benefits company based in Chicago and owned by Anthem’s parent company and also ran UniCare’s Eastern Region with offices.

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