CONSTRUCTION workers should "cover up and slap on the sun block" this summer, the Society of Occupational Medicine has warned.
The warning comes as research published in the scientific journal Occupational Medicine shows skin cancer in construction workers could be as common as asbestos-related disease.
Researchers from the University of Manchester found that some construction workers were up to nine times more likely to get skin cancer than other workers from a similar social group and background.
They have a higher risk due to long periods working outside in direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays reflected from nearby surfaces such as concrete.
The study also reveals that laborers in building and construction trades have significantly increased incidence of other health conditions because of their work compared with other workers.
"Neglecting to cover up under the hot sun can be just as dangerous as forgetting to wear a hard hat," said Dr Henry Goodall, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine.
"We need to send a clear message that the days of the topless builder are over. Skin cancer may take several years to develop and it is often a young person's disease, which can devastate a young family."
Dr Raymond Agius, who led the research team, said: "Construction workers are an important focus of our research. Many are unaware that their work can put their health at risk of a whole range of conditions including asbestos-induced tumors, serious skin conditions and skin cancer."
A separate study published in the same journal highlights the importance of employer-led sun safety interventions in the construction industry.
The team found that younger men were particularly likely to avoid wearing shirts. However, after appropriate training, workers were more likely to adopt measures such as applying sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, wearing long-sleeved loose-fitting tops and regularly checking their skin for changes.
The researchers said: "This study shows that there is a clear benefit to promoting simple sun safety measures to builders and other construction workers.
"Our study has found that younger men, in particular, need to be educated.
"Construction companies should engage with their workers to promote sun protection behaviours."