Golf is a game that doesn’t discriminate. Played across generations, abilities, and all walks of life, it presents a great blend of exercise, sociability, and the great outdoors. But remember to protect your skin before you tee off. New research from the University of South Australia shows golfers have a much higher risk of skin cancer than the general population.
Conducted with global partners, the study is the first to explore the prevalence of skin cancers among an Australian golfing population.
Lead researcher Dr Brad Stenner says the findings highlight the importance of being sun smart on the green. ‘Playing golf regularly has a range of excellent health benefits – from helping you stay fit and active, to keeping you in touch with friends,’ he said.
‘For example, if you walk an average golf course, you’re walking at least five to seven kilometres every game, often more. Add a bag of golf clubs and maybe two to three rounds a week, and you can see just how good golf is for your endurance, muscle tone and wellbeing.’
While there are clear health benefits from the sport, the UniSA study explored the skin cancer risks and prevention strategies for golfers, who tend to play for four or more hours in the sun.
Hole in one, or hole from sun?
The study found that one in four golfers had been diagnosed with skin cancer, as compared with 7 per cent of the general population.
‘So, while sun smart campaigns do exist and are promoted in Australia (especially in summer), it seems they may be missing the mark when it comes to golfers,’ said Dr Stenner.
Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia.
Every year, skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers in this country. One in every three diagnosed cancers are skin related, with between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occurring globally each year.
‘This study confirms that golfers have an elevated risk of skin cancer. Knowing that, players should more actively strive to protect themselves,’ said Dr Stenner.
‘My advice is: before you go out and play golf, make sure you put on some high SPF protective sunscreen, wear a broad brimmed hat and some sort of sleeve or arm protection to ensure you’ve got the maximum coverage, and don’t forget to reapply sunscreen as you go. Once you have that you’re all set to tee off.’