Save your skin: A common cancer in the golf industry

By |  October 22, 2014 0 Comments

sun-flowersI don’t know anyone who hasn’t been impacted by either having or knowing someone who has had cancer. As we all know, there are a large number of different types of cancer that can attack the human body, but the one I see most often in our industry is skin cancer. Skin cancer (or pre-cancerous problems) are seen frequently because our profession demands that we be outdoors more than the average person.

The summer is winding down and cooler temperatures are right around the corner. For those of us who live in the warmer summer climates, this time of year is a relief. After all, we’ve just gone through five months when the temperatures have hovered around 100 degrees or higher every day. We desperately need a break.

Too many of us don’t think about the hidden danger that the sun presents until it’s too late. For those of us who are having issues with our skin later in life, we are dealing with the effects of overexposure to the sun years earlier. That is true in my case.

When I was younger we did not have the plethora of sunscreens that are on the market today. We’d just get sunburned, peel, then get burned again. It’s important to remember, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what type of skin you have, too much sun can have a devastating effect on human skin.

I continually run across countless superintendents and golf professionals who have had to deal with overexposure to the sun. The amazing thing to me is there are still people out there who are not adequately protecting themselves. From my experience, most dermatologists recommend using sunblock with an SPF of 30 and applying repeatedly while outside. Although it is impossible for superintendents to do it, most doctors also recommend staying out of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The most sobering statistics I’ve read lately came from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). According to the AAD, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. On top of that, “in the U.S., one person dies per hour from melanoma, potentially the most deadly form of skin cancer.” If these numbers are not reason enough to protect yourself, I don’t know what would be. The good news is that approximately 99 percent of melanomas diagnosed can be dealt with by surgically removing them, if caught early enough.

I can tell you from personal experience that it is critical to wear the appropriate clothing, eyewear and headgear in addition to using sunscreen to protect your skin from the potentially devastating effects of long-term exposure to the sun.

I have a fair complexion and I live in one of the hottest states in the country, and unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of bouts with skin cancer. I have had basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of skin cancer and is caused by a combination of cumulative UV exposure and intense, occasional UV exposure. It rarely spreads and is easy to treat. In my case, my dermatologist used liquid nitrogen to freeze the spots.

I’ve also had squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common type of skin cancer. In my case, it required fairly significant outpatient surgery.

Fortunately, I’ve never had melanoma but have known many people who have and it’s not a fun thing to go through. I’ve also known several people who have died from melanoma.

I remember when I was younger I complained to my dermatologist that I didn’t like to wear hats and long-sleeved shirts. His response was, “Skin cancer and fashion have nothing to do with each other. Get over it and protect yourself.”

Please, it’s really very easy — protect yourself!


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