Special Report: Golf's silent killer

Sun Block Horschel

According to one study, professional golfers receive an estimated 217 times the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn over the course of a year. Likewise, typical club golfers can receive as much as 5.4 times the amount of UV exposure required to cause sunburn for every single hour that they’re on the course.

That’s relevant because, without taking appropriate preventative measures, such as applying sun cream and so on, a golfer’s skin can and will burn when exposed to such high levels of radiation - and, according to a 2014 report published in the US, five serious cases of sunburn can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by up to 80%.

There’s also this. Men over the age of 40 have the highest annual exposure to UV radiation, with the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma being white men over the age of 50.

Melanoma, meanwhile, is one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate amongst men. 

The upside - and there is an upside - is that 99% of all skin cancers are curable. Again, according to Cancer Research UK, Approximately 90% of people who are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer will live for a further ten or more years. But early detection is critical. Knowing what to look for, where to look for it and then having the good sense and courage to get it checked could, quite literally, be the difference between life and death.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the amount of time they spend on the golf course and practice range, many professional golfers have been diagnosed with skin cancer down the years.

Less than two years before he won the Masters, Adam Scott had a Basal Cell Carcinoma removed from his face. The surgery required 30 stitches and has left the Aussie with a scar on his nose. “The procedure made me less lazy with applying sun protection because it was quite painful to have removed,” he said.

South African Rory Sabbatini had a Squalous Cell Carcinoma removed from his own face in 2010, whilst PGA champion Jimmy Walker, English pro Brian Davis, Tiger Woods’ former coach Hank Haney and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington have also received skin cancer treatment, Harrington on more than one occasion.

Early in 2007, just a matter of months before he won his first major and less than two years after he lost his father to oesophageal cancer, the Irishman had a square-inch of skin removed from his forehead after noticing a spot that wasn’t healing. That was the first of four ‘things’, as he puts it, that he had removed.

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