This year over 1,000,000 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer. One in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. As a golfer, you may have a higher possibility of becoming one of those statistics.
Since golfers spend an extensive amount of time in the sun, they are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer than the general population. Whether you live in an area where you are just getting ready to start your golf season or if you live in a climate where you are fortunate enough to be able to play golf year round, you have a greater risk of developing skin cancer than your non-golfing friends.
If you have a junior golfer in your family, employing good sun protection procedures is crucial. Five or more severe sunburns can double your risk of developing skin cancer. You should know that most people receive 50 to 80% of their lifetime sun exposure by the time they turn 18 years old. Junior golfers clearly get more sun exposure than their non-golf playing peers. Unfortunately with youth, comes the illusion of being Teflon coated. So if your child is playing golf, it is important for you to deliver the message of sun protection and to make sure they are following good sun protection procedures.
So what can you do to reduce your risk? Sun protection is a lot like the game of golf. Both are built on a foundation of personal responsibility. Whether you are a junior golfer, weekend warrior, or golf professional, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and reduce that risk.
Absolutely use a sunscreen or sunblock. A good sunscreen is one of the first lines of defense in sun protection. It is important to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and be sure to use one that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. The label should state that it offers UVA and UVB protection or Broad Spectrum coverage.
Apply sunscreen and sun block 20 to 30 minutes before going into the sunlight and be sure to cover your ears, lips and scalp. If you are also using a bug repellent, apply the sunscreen first and wait before using the bug repellent.
One of the biggest misconceptions about sunscreen is that you can put it on in the morning and it will last all day long. Most sunscreens only last for two to three hours and that can be even less depending on climate, perspiration and activities. That is why we say Dont BurnReapply at the turn. If golfers would heed that advice, they would go a long way to protecting their skin.
Clothing plays a critical role in sun protection as well. Golfers seem very comfortable wearing long pants on the course but few wear long sleeves. New materials not only include a UPF rating (sort of an SPF rating for clothes) but also are very lightweight and comfortable for wearing long sleeves even in warm weather. Since many skin cancers appear on the ears, it is important to wear a hat with a wide brim. A good pair of UV protective sunglasses will help protect not only your eyes but also the area around your eyes.
Seek shade wherever you can. In the golf cart, under a tree and remember your umbrella is not just for rain; it can provide shade and newer umbrellas are made of fabrics that provide UV protection. Most pushcarts have an attachment to hold an umbrella and this is an ideal sun protection tool for junior golfers and adults. If you are a parent watching your child participate in a tournament, bring an umbrella out on the course for you as well.
If possible, avoid the sun when it is the strongest, which is from 10 am to 4pm. Of course as golfers this is not always possible so if you are going to be out in the sun during these hours, you need to be extra careful.
See a Dermatologist once a year. While skin cancer is the most prolific type of cancer it is also the most curable. Early detection is the key. Do a self exam on a regular basis and go to the Dermatologist sooner than once a year if you see a mole or lesion that was not there the last time you checked or if you see one that is growing, changing shape, crusting or starts to bleed.
We often hear that golf is a great game and one of the few sports that you can enjoy well into your 70s and even 80s. With a little bit of sun protection education and strategy, you can increase your likelihood of doing that. If you would like to learn more about sun protection, skin cancer and golf, go to www.sunsafetee.org.
Mark Wishner is the Founder and President of The Sun SafeTee Program (a non-profit organization). Mark created the Sun SafeTee Program based upon his own experience with skin cancer as well as his love for golf. In conjunction with Dermatologists, Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick and Dr. Curt Littler (son of U.S. Open Champion Gene Littler), The Sun SafeTee Program was developed to teach the golf community sun protection strategies and to provide the opportunity for the early detection of skin cancer. The goal of the Sun SafeTee Program is to help golfers enjoy a lifetime of healthy golf. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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