Golf, Sun, and Skin Cancer

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Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona. Four to six hours in the sun takes a toll on a golfer’s skin.

As a dermatology clinician in the southwest US a typical clinic day includes seeing a golfer with skin cancer. Since golfers spend 4 to 6 hours in the sun per round, ultraviolet solar radiation takes a toll on one’s skin.

The brief article in Golf Digest, August 2015 section The Core: Ways to Avoid Skin Cancer (page 36) touches on Beating Melanoma. This, no doubt, is a deadly form of skin cancer and if one has any questions about a new changing lesion, please have it evaluated by a dermatology clinician.

A diagnosis of melanoma is frightening and gives one pause, however let’s not over look the other skin cancers frequently found on golfers: squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). In the dermatology world we call these non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC). SCCs are mostly found on hands, arms, face, ears and neck and BCCs are mostly on the face, ears and neck.

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Most golfers wear one glove but there are many that wear none, hence both hands receive the sun damage. Starr Pass, Tucson, Arizona.














10 things golfers should consider:

  1. Caucasian players over the age of 40 are more prone to pre-cancers and skin cancers.
  2. Higher-risk players are those with a long history of chronic sun exposure and continued sun exposure, i.e., the older golfer or outdoor enthusiast.
  3. NMSCs are found mostly on chronically sun-exposed areas: the face, ears, neck, arms and hands.
  4. NMSC are usually not life-threatening (although they can be) and left untreated, will grow and destroy skin tissue causing chronic ulcers. It is best they are treated.
  5. Those with a history of NMSC and pre-cancers require frequent dermatology follow-up (usually every 3 – 6 months) to identify if any new cancers have arisen from pre-cancerous lesions.
  6. Chronic sun exposure causes photo-aging such as wrinkling, discoloration, brown spots and can compromise the function of the skin.
  7. The best protection is proper clothing: wide-brimmed hats, high-collared and long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  8. Sunscreens should be applied liberally and at the beginning of each nine holes.
  9. Inorganic sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to stay on the skin longer but do have to be wiped off at the end of a round.
  10. Golfers should have a skin exam at least once annually, more frequently if there is a history of skin cancer.

Golfers with a history of skin cancer: Adam Scott, Rory Sabbatini, Brian Davis, Aron Price, Andy North, Tom Kite, JC Snead, Butch Baird, just to name a few. Fred Couples has had several skin cancers removed from his hands.

Golf Digest recommendations on ‘Homemade Armor for the Sun’ hits spot on: prevention by sun protective clothing. Dark, tightly woven or knitted fabrics work best however, may be hot, so choose the clothing with a loose fit so air can pass through and create a mini air-conditioned feel. See blog post, Sun Protective Clothing Tips for Chemotherapy Patients.

Don’t forget the hands! As a golfer, your dermatologist will always check your hands. Often, we see fewer precancerous and NMSC lesions on the glove-covered hand. Our PalmFree™SunGlove is an easy option and avoids application of sunscreen to the back of your non-gloved hand.

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Back of the hands are chronically sun exposed from daily life activities. Golfing related sun exposure increases risk of skin cancer. Can you see the precancerous lesions?














Enjoy your golf and improve your game with these Golf Training Tips, but remember to protect your body armour….aka your skin!


Golf Digest: Beating Melanoma

Golf Digest: Burned to a Crisp

PGA Tour: Sun Exposure an Occupational Hazard on the Tour

Skin Cancer Foundation: Men, Golf and Skin Cancer

Golf Digest: Fred Couples has skin cancer lesions removed