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Published March 10, 2013, 04:15 PM

ND researcher wants farmers to cover up from sun

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota researcher is trying to convince farmers and ranchers to take cover from the sun.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota researcher is trying to convince farmers and ranchers to take cover from the sun.

Kathryn Stensgard recently completed a skin cancer study as a doctor of nursing practice student at North Dakota State University. She hopes the research will reach rural residents and persuade them to use sunscreen and other forms of sun protection.

Farmers and ranchers have skin cancer rates statistically higher than the average population, Stensgard said.

"These people spend so much time outdoors, and there's no way around that," she said.

Stensgard told the Grand Forks Herald she began her research last year at a soil conservation conference in western North Dakota. She surveyed the sun protection practices of 104 people attending the meeting, most of whom were involved in farming and ranching.

Of the surveyed group, 36 percent said they don't use sunscreen at all, and 50 percent said they rarely or never include it as part of their daily routine. People in the 25 to 40 age group reported the most frequent sunscreen use, while people ages 61 to 80 were least likely to use it, according to the survey.

Stensgard, who grew up on a farm south of Mandan, said she has also seen the disease firsthand. She said five relatives on her father's side of the family, including her father, have dealt with skin cancer.

She said other people in her community have suffered from the illness.

Stensgard said she's hoping her research will be published, but in the meantime she wants rural residents to start talking about skin cancer prevention. She said there was an average of 162 cases of melanoma — a serious form of skin cancer — in North Dakota from 2005 to 2009.

"I want the knowledge of skin cancer and healthy sun protection behaviors to increase for farmers and ranchers across the state of North Dakota, and any outdoor workers for that matter," Stensgard said. "That's the primary goal."

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