A hazard golfers don't consider enough: skin cancer

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Scott Rushing
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A hazard golfers don't consider enough: skin cancer

Two golf hazards not discussed nearly enough are the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure and the peril of lightning.

If you play enough golf, you are regularly exposed to both.

Dermatologists say golfers are notoriously poor at protecting themselves from sun damage and frequently need treatment for harmful lesions on ears, hands and noses. And in a typical year, lightning kills more people than tornadoes or hurricanes. A golf course is an especially dangerous place during a thunderstorm because it has isolated, tall trees and wide-open spaces where golfers can be the tallest target.

Men who play golf are particularly susceptible to melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Exposure to excessive UV rays in the form of sunlight causes melanoma, so golfers are urged to wear sunscreen and stay out of the direct sunlight as much as possible, especially during the summer months. The MFNE also encourages wearing sun protection clothing during golf and knowing your moles so that you can head to the doctor if you see a mole that looks strange.

Its been reported that men over 50 are twice as likely as women to develop and die from melanoma, making them the highest risk group for the disease. Half of all melanoma deaths in the U.S. are in men over the age of 50.

This is good news for Kristina Heitzman Carr. Heitzman Carr is a physician assistant with Hudson Dermatology in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill. She said golfers have "special risks" to sun-exposure issues.

"They may not be at the beach," she said, "but they are out on exposed fairways with little shade for long hours. This can add up to significant accumulated sun exposure."

Heitzman Carr offers the following recommendations for golfers:

Wear protective clothing, including wide-brim hats, long-sleeve shirts and long pants to avoid exposure. "Those who are extremely susceptible to sunburn should wear UV (ultraviolet) protective clothing," she said.

• On warm days when golfers will have more skin exposure to the sun's rays, they should liberally apply 15-30 SPF (sun protection factor) sunblock. It should be reapplied every four hours, or more frequently if golfers perspire a lot. Use of an SPF of 50 or higher does not eliminate the need for liberal re-application, she said.

• Play early or late in the day, avoiding the intense sun of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Those with previous skin-cancer history, like Dollard, should be "extra vigilant," she said.

• Cloudy days also pose a threat. "Some rays come through even on cloudy days," she said, "so use moderate precautions even during these times."

Lastly, Heitzman Carr said golfers should not wear the dark-tanned or sunburned skin as a badge of honor.

"Remember," she said, "if you get a sunburn or even a dark tan, you have experienced ultraviolet radiation damage to your skin."

Aimee
Aimee's picture
skin cancer

in addition to using sunscreen regularly (not just on sunny days), remember to use sunscreen for your eyes: sunglasses. If you think you can't play with them (and if you purchase proper, quality sunglasses designed for golf you won't find as many issues), just take them off before you hit the ball and put them on the cart or bag. My eye doctor says he can tell when someone doesn't wear sunglasses, you damage your eyes. A hat shades your face, but doesn't block the rays as effectively.

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Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
I'm thinking about investing

I'm thinking about investing in either a second pair of prescription specifically for golfing. I'm having to wear my glasses and not contacts so I may get a second pair with the transitions lenses that I could use while I golf. I've seen some more sport specific options here and there, and I may look into them. But you're right, I do need to have something with protection

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Aimee
Aimee's picture
sunglasses

not a bad idea. Stay away from polarized lenses, most people say that they aren't the best for golf, distortion issues. Polarized lenses are excellent for glare issues (boating or skiing) but flatten the details. You may want to investigate Oakley, they make prescription versions of their sport sunglasses.

It's not how...it's how many

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Som myths about sun screen protection

While a little old, the evidence is still true. From the August 2011 issue of Golf Digest:

Dr. Michael Kaminer, a dermatologist, avid golfer and regular contributor to Golf Digest, debunks some myths about protecting yourself from skin cancer and other sun-related damage.

SUN-PROTECTION MYTHS

1. THE HIGHER THE SPF RATING, THE LONGER YOU'RE COVERED.
Any sunscreen that lists a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) higher than 30 is misleading. Why? The sunscreen will wear off (usually two hours) before that extra SPF would do you any good.

2. SUNSCREENS ARE SWEAT-PROOF.
Regardless of how it's advertised, sunscreen coverage will be diluted by your sweat. Keep reapplying.

3. ONCE YOU'RE TAN, YOU DON'T NEED SUNSCREEN.
Tan skin is damaged skin trying to protect itself from further damage. Without sunscreen, you're increasing your risk of more damage, including skin cancer.

4. NO SUN? NO SUNSCREEN NEEDED.
If the sun's rays can penetrate clothing, what do you think they can do to a puffy cloud? You might not get sunburned, but you're still exposed to dangerous ultraviolet rays.

5. LIPS CAN'T GET SUNBURNED.
Lips are particularly susceptible to sun damage. Use a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher. Don't have any balm? It's OK to use sunscreen on your lips, but it will wear off faster than balm.

6. ONLY EXPOSED PARTS OF THE BODY ARE AT RISK FOR SKIN CANCER.
Melanoma, which is potentially fatal, can occur anywhere on the body. So if you see a new, odd or growing skin blemish, see a doctor immediately.

DAMAGE REMOVAL
If you do have sun damage and want to have it removed before it develops into skin cancer, three-time PGA Tour winner Scott McCarron says you might want to consider a new laser treatment called Fraxel, which removes precancerous skin lesions called actinic keratosis as well as less-threatening sun blemishes.

"The procedure took an hour," McCarron says. "It wasn't painful, just felt like being pinched by a tiny needle, and the recovery time wasn't long, either. I had these little red bumps on my face for a week or so, but now my skin looks a lot younger."

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2011-08/summer-sun-protection#ixzz2om...

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Aimee
Aimee's picture
skin treatment

I've had those actinic keratosis lesions removed from my face, last one was on the hairline near right temple. Dermatologist burns them off with liquid nitrogen. Stings/burns for a few seconds during application, then over the course of a week the area crusts over and scabs. Clear skin underneath. Sometimes there is a stubborn one that takes two treatments over the course of a year (they come back). Pretty lo-tech method.

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Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
I had that done once with a

I had that done once with a wart many years ago. Yes, low tech but effective.

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Aimee
Aimee's picture
back again

Last year I had a small skin cancer removed from my neck, I have one on my wrist being removed in a couple of weeks. Thankfully they have been basal cell, the least invasive types, and because I go to the dermatologist every 6 months and have learned what to look out for, they get caught pretty quickly. That doesn't make it any less disturbing, and I'm starting to think about getting sun sleeves for next season.

It's not how...it's how many

DON
Long Sleeve golf shirts

Some of the top golf shirt companies have come out with long sleeve versions of their golf shirts just for this issue. I have a few really nice ones from Antigua that I really like. Great fit and very comfortable to wear even in hot weather. The added protection for your arms is well worth it in the long run. As others have mentioned, skin cancer is not much fun, and a long sleeve shirt for when you're out playing golf is a good investment for your health.

Don

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