New York: Soldiers deployed to regions having tropical and sunny climates face a threat that they cannot fight with weapons - the possibility of skin cancer.
Studying about 200 US Army veterans, researchers from the Vanderbilt University's medical center and the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System found that 62 percent of military personnel reported getting sunburned while deployed abroad -- the cases included that of skin blistering as well.
Also, 29 percent noted a change in the colour, shape or size of their moles (a skin cancer risk factor) since being deployed to tropical zones, but only four percent reported receiving a skin examination from a physician since deployment.
"The past decade of United States combat missions, including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have occurred at a more equatorial latitude than the mean centre of the United States population, increasing the potential for ultraviolet irradiance and the development of skin cancer," said lead researcher Jennifer Powers, Division of Dermatology and lead researcher of the study.
The study also found that only 22 percent of military personnel were made very aware of the risks of sun exposure, and while 77 percent reported being exposed to bright sunlight for more than four hours a day while working, only 27 percent had regular access to sunscreen.
Previous research showed that 34 percent of United States military veterans who developed melanoma had also been deployed to tropical climates. Melanoma claims 9,700 lives in the United States each year.
The research was recently presented at the "World Congress on Cancers of the Skin", held in Edinburgh, Scotland.