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Nearly 3.7 million skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. annually, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The majority of them are caused by solar UV radiation.
Golfers spend four to five hours in the sun each time they play golf. Add practice time on the range before play and during the week, and your average golfer is exposed to a great deal of sunlight each week.
We are all active people. We walk our dogs, take our kids and grandkids to the beach and play tennis. That’s a lot of sun exposure and we need to be concerned about it.
I spoke with Lana Oliver, a physician’s assistant at Summit Plastic Surgery & Dermatology last week. Originally from Stedman, Lana is a graduate of Methodist University with a master’s in medical sciences. She grew up in a military family and “lived all over.” Today, she is happy here on the Carolina coast, working in a profession she loves.
We talked about the ways golfers can protect themselves from too much sun exposure.
“Although the FDA recommends sunscreens with at least an SPF of 15, I prefer a 30,” she said. “That sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours, especially if the person is sweating.”
“There was a lot of hype a few years ago when sunscreens with a SPF of up to 70 were introduced. Research now tells us that anything over SPF 50 has not been proven any more effective than those less than that.
“As of this summer, a lot of sunscreens will have new labels imposed by new FDA guidelines to clarify the effectiveness of sunscreens. They no longer say waterproof or sweat proof or a sunblock. They must state if they are water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes.”
According to Lana, many new sunscreen products are not greasy or girly.
“Today several manufacturers, like Neutrogena and Aveeno, carry non-greasy products for both men and women,” she said. “In addition, most dermatologists carry their own prescription sunscreen products.”
Getting a regular skin check at your dermatologist is important. That worrisome-looking mole of your upper arm may be nothing, but you need to have it checked by a professional. Knowing your family history is vital, according to Lana.
I can attest to that.
We have a family history of skin cancer. When Scott, my second-oldest grandson was a toddler, my daughter noticed an irregular flat dark mole on the back of his head. She asked her pediatrician about it and he said it was nothing.
But Karen worried about the mole and about our family history. What would happen when her son no longer had a buzz cut? What if he grew his hair longer when he got older and the mole was no longer visible? It could grow and no one would see it.
She took him to a dermatologist and told him the family history of skin cancer. The dermatologist biopsied the mole and it was pre-cancerous.
They removed the mole and today Scott is a freshman at Virginia Tech.
“You need to know your family history,” Lana said “Everyone should be careful and aware of their skin and exposure to sunlight, but those with a history of melanoma or other skin cancers need to be doubly careful.”
Sunscreen should be applied wherever your skin is exposed to sunlight, according to Lana. Face, arms, legs, the V of your neck and your ears should all get a dose of sunscreen before you step onto the tee box or head out to the practice area.
Today, there are brands of clothing specifically designed to keep out the sun’s rays. One brand is Coolibar, an Australian import that features shirts, pants, hats and accessories, all very stylish and up-to-date. Other brands are available at golf shops and department stores like Target.
If you are very susceptible to the sun, you might want to wear long sleeves and pants and a hat. The clothing is breathable, yet protects the golfer from the sun.
“Baseball caps and visors are not the best thing to wear for protection,” Lana said. “Ears are very prone to skin cancers and most people forget to apply sunscreen to them. A wide-brimmed hat is perfect for golf. It protects your face, ears and neck.”
Don’t forget your eyes; the sun can also cause damage to the retina or lens and increase the probability of cataracts. Wear sunglasses that protect from UV (ultraviolet rays).
The sun is always there and anytime we are outdoors, in our car, or even sitting by a window, we are exposed to UV rays. Lana told me many more skin cancers are found on the left arms of folks who do a lot of driving.
“That daily dose of sunlight on that part of the body builds up over the years and results in problems,” she explained.
I can attest to that. For years, I played golf with a glove on my left hand. Today, my left hand is relatively free of those ugly “age spots,” but my right hand has a whole bunch of them.
Even if you don’t get skin cancer, exposure to the sun causes wrinkles and thickening of the skin. My moisturizer has sunscreen in it, and I put it on in the morning, summer and winter. It’s just a habit that I’ve gotten into and Lana said that was a good thing.
“Sunscreens should be applied year round, not just when the weather is hot,” she said. “Cumulative exposure is what we want to avoid. Most people put on sunscreen when they go to the beach but do not bother to do so when they play golf or garden or enjoy a picnic in their neighbor’s backyard.”
In summary, here are my Safe from the Sun Golf Gab tips:
1. Before golf, apply sunscreen on every part of your body that will be exposed to the sun’s rays. Make sure visiting grandchildren are protected.
2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat instead of a visor or baseball cap.
3. Get sunglasses with UV protection.
4. Wear protective clothing if you are sensitive.
5. Know your family history. Tell your children your family history. Even a kid can get skin cancer.
6. See your dermatologist annually for a full body check. You may have something growing where you cannot see it.
7. If a mole changes color or texture or size, have it checked right away. Most skin cancers are treatable if detected early.
So, dear readers, enjoy this wonderful game of golf and please be sun-safe.
Golf Gab groaner
Arnold was playing golf one day with a caddie. It was not a good day as Arnold hit slice after slice on every tee shot, putting his ball into the woods, the lakes, the trees.
Finally, he turned to his caddie and said, “I’m having a terrible day. Have you seen any obvious problems with my swing?”
“There’s a piece of crap on the end of your driver,” the caddie replied.
Arnold picked up his driver and started cleaning the clubface.
“No, the other end,” said the caddie.
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.