June 9, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman

After seeing a number of farmers in Muhlenberg County have to deal with skin cancer on their lips, ears and noses, Darrell Simpson decided it was time to remind them of the hazards of working in the sun along with what can be done to reduce their risk.

“When you see band-aids on their lips, that’s a sure sign they’ve had to deal with skin cancer,” said Simpson, Muhlenberg County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. “So that’s what got me thinking about skin cancer awareness. It is not an original idea but something I felt pretty passionate about especially after seeing a lot of the farmers in the county with cancers on their lips, ears and noses and having to have them removed.”

He began working on a skin cancer awareness program about a year ago and received a $500 grant from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Alumni Association.

Simpson also serves on a state committee regarding a hat exchange program that is being planned. The baseball style hat is one most farmers wear but provides little protection. The exchange program will swap those for wide brim hats.

From that committee work he was able to obtain a source of wide brim hats. From there, he purchased a limited supply of hats and is distributing them to county farmers. Simpson said he targeted producers who are in the sun for long periods of time such as vegetable or tobacco producers. He also is trying to give hats to producers who are in public areas such as golf course superintendents where others will see them and be interested in them.

“That way we can get the awareness out there and spread the word of the importance of wearing a hat, long sleeves, sunglasses, sun screen and lip balm,” he said.

Simpson started distributing hats in May and only has a small supply. He said the point is not to provide the hats but to increase awareness so others will purchase their own.

In addition to one-on-one discussions, Simpson has used articles in the local newspaper to raise awareness and used information in his monthly newsletter.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and nearly one million Americans each year learn they have it. Approximately 9,000 Americans die from it each year. Repeated exposure to the sun over a long period of time is a major factor in the development of skin cancer.

“It’s surprising the number of people that are aware of the dangers of skin cancer but it’s also surprising the number of people that do nothing to try to prevent it,” he said. “Hopefully, we are going to bump that awareness up a notch and get people thinking about what they can do.”

Muhlenberg County farmer Leslie Scott said he was visiting with Simpson on another issue when they began discussing skin cancer and Scott noted that he’d had several places removed on his arms.

“Nobody thought about skin cancer when I was growing up,” he said.

Scott’s doctor talked him into wearing long sleeved shirts which he does every day but Sunday. He also uses sunscreen throughout the day.

“Long sleeves are not as hot as I thought they would be,” he said.

Scott said he likes the hat Simpson provided and learned several new cancer prevention tips.

“He brought it back to my attention that I needed to use the lip balm and now use sunglasses,” he said. “I didn’t know sunglasses were a part of it.”

Scott said the awareness Simpson is creating may help others.

 “I think this is a great thing to do,” he said.



Editor: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Darrell Simpson 270-338-3124