Farmers, tradies and professional drivers are the workers most at risk from skin cancer, research has confirmed.

A major study by the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, affiliated with the University of Western Australia, looked at the extent of sun exposure among workers in a cross-section of industries.

The research found that overall, more than one-third of male workers but just eight per cent of female workers – two million people in Australia – were exposed to solar radiation at work.

The workers at particular risk of skin cancer were farmers, trades and construction workers and drivers.

“Although 95 per cent of the people we spoke to said they used sun protection, the level of protection varied and in reality, less than nine per cent were fully protected from UV radiation,” professor Lin Fritschi said.

The results, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, concluded exposure to solar radiation was also more likely among males in lower socioeconomic and regional areas.

“Workers need to be aware that reflective surfaces can also create significant levels of UVR, which is why tradespeople on roofs, near water or next to a glass window in a vehicle are exposed,” Professor Fritschi said.