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."