Skin Cancer is Golf's Silent Killer: Sun Protection for Golfers
Last updated: September 2023
Golfers and skin cancer have an unfortunate link, with the disease being termed "golf's silent killer." Many golfers hope for a sunny day on the course, not realizing how much sun damage accumulates during those 4-5 hours of direct sunlight. Fortunately, there are many ways for you to protect your skin from cumulative UV sun exposure while playing golf.
Golfers and skin cancer
Golfers are at an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers due to cumulative UV exposure. The time spent outdoors, especially in direct sunlight during peak times of UV sun exposure, between 10 am - 4 pm, can do a number on one's skin. Interestingly enough, playing at higher altitudes can also increase your exposure to UV radiation.1
Here are some sun protection tips and tricks to use on the golf course
Apply sunscreen before getting dressed
Most clothing except UPF clothing has an SPF of 7.2 Applying sunscreen before dressing will ensure all areas of the body are protected. A broad-spectrum 30-50 SPF sunscreen is the best to use.3 Use a shot glass full for the entire body. There are also sports sunscreens available over the counter, which are particularly useful for those who are active. Don't forget the back of the neck, as that has been demonstrated to be the area of the body with the highest amount of UV exposure.1
Use a sunscreen stick
Sunscreen sticks are great for reapplying sunscreen to the face, neck, ears, and arms to avoid the slippery feeling you might get from normal sunscreen when on the golf course. Sunscreen needs to be re-applied every 2-3 hours.3 Using a stick SPF is less messy, easy to apply, convenient to carry, and won't affect your golf grip!
Wear UPF clothing
A normal T-shirt and pants have an SPF of about 7.2 Look for shirts, shorts, or pants with UPF 50. This will give you an added layer of sun protection along with wearing sunscreen.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat with UV protection
A wide-brimmed hat can protect the entire face, unlike a baseball cap. Some hats are also made with UPF 50 for added sun protection. But remember, you still need to wear sunscreen!
Protect the eyes
Skin cancer can appear around and even in the eyes. Cataracts are also caused by UV sun exposure.1 Wear polarized UV-protected sunglasses while playing to adequately protect your eyes.
Remember: there is no such thing as a safe tan
Once the skin is tan, the sun damage has already happened. The accumulation of UV exposure over time is the leading cause of skin cancers, both melanoma, and non-melanoma.
Avoid the leathery skin look.
Chronic sun exposure depletes the collagen and elasticity in the skin, causing the skin over time to look leathery. Other signs of sun damage on the face are wrinkles, redness, enlarged blood vessels, and brown spots.4
Be prepared with SFP and sun protection even when it is cloudy
Get a skin check!
Skin checks are so important for golfers and anyone who is exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. Be sure to get a skin check at least once a year to help detect skin cancers and pre-skin cancers, also known as actinic keratosis.
We need to raise awareness about golfers and skin cancer
Many golfers are not aware of the link between golf and skin cancer and the sun damage that is accumulated on the course. Golf magazines, courses, and clubs need to create awareness for skin cancer prevention. Melanoma is on the rise and unfortunately affects more men than women. Men ages 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer.5
There are many ways to protect the skin from the sun, as described above, so the next time you get out on the golf course, make sure you're well protected!
What do you do to protect yourself from the sun while golfing?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?