Golfers have good awareness of skin cancer

But many not protecting themselves enough
  • Deborah Condon

Golfers in Ireland have a good knowledge of skin cancer risk, however many are not protecting themselves properly from the disease, a new study has found.

There are over 300 golf courses in Ireland and the sport continues to be very popular here. Due to long hours spent outside, golfers need to be aware of the risk of skin cancer.

Currently in Ireland, around 25% of all cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC), while melanoma skin cancer makes up a further 4%.

"The incidence of both NMSC and melanoma has increased over the last decade in keeping with many other cancers. However, unlike many other cancers, melanoma is often seen in younger age groups and represents the fifth most common cause of cancer-related mortality in individuals less than 50 years old in Ireland," said the researchers from the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork.

They noted that the awareness of skin cancer risk among golfers is widely reported in the US and the USPGA has actively promoted UV protective measures since 2012.

However, the use of sun protective measures among golfers in Ireland is unclear, so the researchers decided to look into this further.

They questioned 163 golfers in the Munster region, 84% of whom were male. The average age of the participants was 65 years and almost all golfed at least once a week.

The researchers found that almost 70% of the participants checked their skin regularly and overall, knowledge of skin cancer risk was better among the golfers than the general population.

However, while 85% of the participants did use sun protection cream, almost half of these were using an SPF (sun protection factor) that was too low.

Furthermore, while 74% of golfers said they wore a hat when golfing, over half of these wore a baseball cap instead of the recommended wide-brim hat.

The study noted that almost 10% of the participants had a previous history of skin cancer and 15% had seen their GP regarding a skin lesion in the previous six months.

However when asked what they would do if they noticed a new mole, 40% of the golfers said that they would ignore it or ask a partner or friend for their opinion. The remaining 60% said they would visit their GP.

The study noted that most golfers would be worried if they had a mole that increased in size, changed colour or changed shape.

And most respondents were aware that melanoma skin cancer can lead to death if left untreated, but can be cured if caught early.

"This survey suggests that golfers may benefit from targeted education emphasising the importance of higher SPF use. Other interventions that may benefit this population would include availability of sunscreens and educational literature in ‘pro' shops at golf courses," the researchers concluded.

Details of these findings are published in the Irish Medical Journal.


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