You're a golfer who takes their health and wellbeing seriously. So, says Michelle Baker, creator of the Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign, it's time to stop making excuses

Following months of lockdown, golfers are enjoying a well-deserved return to the fairways, many with the intention of making 2021 their best year yet.

Ask any PGA pro and they’ll tell you that when it comes to the quest for excellence, as well as the obvious hours of practice, staying mentally and physically strong and flexible will help you get the most from every shot.

As most of you know, when it comes to reaching your peak, whatever your age, it isn’t easy.  You must work at it, engage discipline, create good habits, and most importantly stick with it. With time, the sacrifices become more bearable and even enjoyable, and then the magic then takes over, your handicap improves!

Becoming mindful around your health not only improves your game, but also lowers your susceptibility to those nasty illness that will guarantee to cut your game short – from heart disease, diabetes, to some types of cancer which sadly will affect half of us.

We do all we can to avoid the ‘Big C’ for good reason: from quitting smoking, limiting our alcohol intake, managing our stress and watching our weight.

So why is it that so many health conscience golfers, refuse to take the warnings around skin cancer and sun exposure seriously?

Surveys tell us you don’t use sunscreen

Despite the overwhelming body of research, that proves categorically just how dangerous too much UV exposure can be, a recent survey undertaken by Melanoma Fund, and conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, reveals that only 42% of golfers use sunscreen when the weather required it, and a massive 72% never reapply it when on the fairway.  With nearly 30% admitting they avoid sun protection, in favour of a tan, it could be that many of us are in denial.  If so, it’s time to get some things into perspective.

Getting the habit

You absolutely need to wear sunscreen every time before you tee off, no matter what the weather forecast predicts. If this idea makes you cringe, let’s explore your excuses and see if we can quash it!

‘I love a tan’

Be honest, you may be thinking, ‘I look so healthy with a tan – and so much better looking!’ Firstly, there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’ as it actively works against your prized looks. UV rays break down the collagen in your skin making it wrinkled, discoloured, and leathery. Those who shun sun protection end up looking a good 10 years older than their age, compared to those who regularly protect their skin.

‘My skin is strong!’

If you feel your skin is seasoned to the sun, think again. Although it appears to be thicker and more resilient, it has been weakened over the years, and probably looks a lot worse for your age than you would credit. 

It will bruise more easily, which is certainly not healthy look.  If you feel it hasn’t been affected, take a good long look at your face and arms. If you have those brown scaly spots, known as solar keratosis, it is a form of sun damage which indicates your skin is struggling, and can be a pre-cursor to skin cancer.

‘Skin cancer happens to others’

Aside from the aesthetic issues, which may hopefully be enough to send you scuttling off to the chemist, the sun’s most serious threat is it is the major cause of skin cancer. This is now the most common of all cancers put together, especially affecting those who shun sun protection. There are nearly 152,000 new non-melanoma skin cancer cases reported in the UK every year. That’s more than 410 every day (2015-2017), with men more prone.

‘I avoid a greasy grip!’

Many golfers happily apply sunscreen in the morning, but dread re-application due to getting their hands greasy, which feels horrid and affects their grip.  To be effective, sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours, even a ‘once a day’ product, as it can easily be rubbed or sweated off.  This should not be an excuse; simply use a chubby stick, an applicator or use a small damp towel to wipe hands clean.

‘Oh, I never use lotions!’

Extract yourself from the 1960s. Men’s skincare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world today. Professional golfers look after their skin and take sun protection seriously, and that is both men and woman. They know that having something cut out of their body, is worse than putting something on their skin. If you still feel squeamish, ask anyone who has suffered skin cancer. I guarantee you’ll be diving into a bit pot of SPF30 in no time.

‘I simply forget’

Do you forget to clean your teeth in the morning? Do you forget to put a mask on when you enter a shop? Do you forget to put your seatbelt on? Of course you don’t, because you take your health seriously. This excuse simply means you haven’t developed this as a habit. It’s something you could start, right now.

‘I wear it abroad but not in the UK’

With sunscreen advertising regularly featuring beaches and sparkling seas, it is easy to think sunscreen is reserved for our summer holidays, instead of a daily requirement here in the UK.  The fact is that the sun can be just as hot in the UK as in the rest of Europe.  The weather can also change from rainy to scorching within an hour, so don’t get caught out!

Skin cancer is totally avoidable. If any of the above apply to you, quit the excuses and start getting into better habits.

The facts about skin cancer

Working for a melanoma charity, I have often heard the term ‘just skin cancer’. Although not all types are fatal, all types are invasive, traumatic, and scarring. They are prone to being cut out in areas such as your face, which can be really debilitating. Never underestimate it.

There are two main types: non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma; and the most serious type which is malignant melanoma.

Although rare, rates of melanoma have more than doubled in the UK in the last 30 years, with incidence in women having doubled (100% increase) and men nearly tripled (181%).  It is one of our fastest rising cancers and, although still higher in older people, rates in 25–49-year-olds increased by 70% over the same period. Global cases will reach nearly half a million (466,914) by 2040, an increase of 62% on 2018 figures. 

Make sure you check your skin

The key to successfully treating melanoma is by early detection, which makes checking regular skin another important health habit for everyone.  However, our survey revealed that only 29% of golfers do this monthly, even though this is strongly recommended by dermatologists. 

Slip! Slap! Swing!

With many skin cancer surgeons reporting that they see too many golfers, the Melanoma Fund responded by launching Slip! Slap! Swing! a sun protection campaign for golf, designed to create greater awareness around the risks. 

With the official backing of every golf organisation in the UK and Ireland, the charity is enlisting the help of golf clubs, and getting the message out at the right time and place.

By becoming Sun Protection Accredited, clubs can help members and all staff improve their sun protection habits and knowledge. Supported with free resources and up-to-date advice, involvement is quick, easy and achieved by pledging five actions:

  • Nominate a Sun Pro Ambassador
  • Add a sun protection statement
  • Display awareness posters
  • Ensure sunscreen is available
  • Display the Sun Protection Accreditation logo

Our survey also revealed 41% of you were interested in getting your club Sun Protection Accredited, which is pretty good take up for a new campaign.

With over 350 clubs signing up last year, why not find out more, and get your club involved? Not only will you be saving your own skin, but that of other golfers, and helping us take skin cancer off the fairway.  

Start taking your health seriously, by adding sun protection to your game this summer. For further information, visit our website.

Your skin is at risk even on cloudy, cool, and windy days, so the easiest and most foolproof way to lessen your risk of skin cancer is by wearing sunscreen. But just because you’re slapping some SPF on doesn’t mean you automatically get a gold star and a pat on the back.

From not using a high enough SPF to enjoying margaritas poolside, you’re likely doing some things that are inadvertently making your sunscreen less effective, which can lead to dangerous sun exposure you didn’t even realize you’ve been getting.

The From the Clubhouse podcast with Melanoma Fund’s Michelle Baker

Listen to the full episode below, or search ‘The NCG Podcast’ in your preferred podcast platform.

For more information, including a melanoma FAQ, facts about skin cancer and what to look out for, visit Melanoma Fund’s website.

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