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Skin disease common among Hispanic farmworkers in North Carolina, research shows

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Wake Forest University School of Medicine studies of Hispanic farmworkers in North Carolina found that more than three out of four workers had skin disease and that workers need more information about how to prevent common skin conditions, as well as potentially deadly diseases such as skin cancer.

Few studies have evaluated skin disease in migrant farmworkers. In one of the Wake Forest studies, 59 farmworkers from Nash and Johnston Counties were examined by a dermatologist with the goal of estimating the prevalence and predictors of skin disease. The results are reported in the May issue of the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health.

A second study, which involved in-depth interviews with 30 farmworkers from across the state, was designed to determine workers' beliefs and perceptions about occupational skin disease. Results are reported in the April issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

"Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to diseases of the skin and have the highest incidence of skin disorders of any industry," said Thomas Arcury, Ph.D., professor of family medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and lead researcher. "These workers represent a medically underserved population that is at risk for both environmental and occupational health problems, as well as health problems associated with poverty."

An estimated 4.2 million seasonal and migrant farmworkers and their families live in the United States. Most farmworkers are Hispanic, with a majority being from Mexico. Due to language barriers 44 percent indicate they speak no English they have limited access to health education or safety warnings.

In the study involving skin exams of 59 workers, all five female workers had skin disease, while 78 percent of the 54 men did. The study was conducted during the 2004 growing season. For men, the most common diagnoses were nail fungus, foot fungus and acne. Among the women,
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
25-Apr-2006


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