Mark Wilson knows that the hat he wears every day is not particularly attractive. Big and floppy is how he describes it. Some of the members at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, Calif., where Wilson is director of golf, even make fun of his hat. But Wilson has a comeback for that. I tell them as soon as you have a piece of your head removed, you are going to think differently, he says. Thats because Wilson went through just such a procedure about 10 years ago to have a skin cancer removed.
I was driving in the car one day with my wife and she noticed a dark and oddly shaped freckle behind my right earlobe, says Wilson. She suggested that I have it checked out immediately. Less than one week later, I learned that it was cancerous and had to have it surgically removed. From that moment on, Wilson started wearing his big, floppy hat.
The members at my club know me pretty well. If I go outside now, without a hat on, I have two or three of them yell at me, he laughs.
Wilson admits that as a child growing up in California he was very dedicated to outside activities ' surfing, golf, etc, ' but not particularly dedicated to using sunscreen.
I used zero protection as a kid, he admits. By the time I was in my twenties and thirties, I wasnt in the sun as much, but I think the damage was done.
Hes exactly right, according to Dr. Andrew Kaufman, Wilsons dermatologic surgeon and a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS).
All sun damage is cumulative, he explains. What youve done in the past, you really cant do anything about now. The damage you get today can turn up as pre-cancer or cancer 10-20 years from now.
Protection from the sun is particularly important ' and challenging ' for golfers such as Wilson, who spend hours outside at often the most intense time of ultraviolet exposure. To help golfers prevent skin cancer and sun damage, Dr. Kaufman and the ASDS offer the following tips:
*Stay Protected ' Because a round of golf can last anywhere between four to six hours, it is critical that golfers reapply sunscreen every two to three hours. Sunscreen should be applied before the first tee and reapplied at the turn between the ninth green and 10th tee. Try to schedule early morning and late afternoon tee times for extra protection from the suns strongest UV rays.
*Choose a Proper Sunscreen ' Look for sunscreens that block both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and that have a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Since golfers tend to sweat a lot, waterproof or water-resistant sunscreens will last longer than regular sunscreens. Sun tan lotions and creams tend to have a higher SPF than gel or alcohol-based sunscreens, which need to be reapplied more often.
*Cover Everything ' Apply sunscreen to every area of the body that may be exposed to the sun, including the top of the head, ears (front and back), face, lips, neck, hands, arms and legs. For additional protection, wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
*Perform Monthly Self Examinations ' Ask a derma surgeon what to look for during monthly self-examinations. Yearly checkups with a dermatologist are advised.
One in five Americans & one in three Caucasians will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure.
Fewer than 33 percent of adults, adolescents, and children routinely use sun protection.
A persons risk for skin cancer doubles if they have had five or more sunburns.
THE A-B-C-D OF MELANOMA
Self examination is key in detecting skin cancer. To help sort out the difference between cancerous and non-cancerous spots, physicians often use the ABCD method. The following characteristics would suggest the spot needs a biopsy:
A- asymmetrical (uneven) shape and/or size
B- borders that are irregular, jagged or blurred
C- any of the colors red, white, blue or black or a mix of colors
D- diameter larger than a pencil eraser
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