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Sun signs

Golfers are prime candidates for skin cancer, so make sure you know the best ways to protect yourself from harm.

by Catherine RislingPublished: August, 2011

Golfers sometimes take risks on the course. But at least one can have deadly consequences.

If you play without protecting your skin, you need to rethink your game plan.

Research shows that more than 3 million people a year in the United States — or one in five — will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. And with an average round lasting five hours, getting a “healthy glow” that could turn into something more than sunspots is a risk millions of golfers are taking each day.

So to stay out of the doctor’s office, follow this advice:

1. Proper clothing helps
Sunscreen is vital to protecting your skin, but it should be reapplied every few hours, and not every golfer takes time to do so.

Mark Wishner, founder of the San Diego-based Sun SafeTee Program that educates the golf community about sun prevention and early detection of skin cancer, says a garment with a UPF of 50 blocks 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

“With sunscreen, you run the risk of it wearing off or getting sunscreen in your eyes or on your hands,” said Wishner, a skin cancer survivor. “With UPF garments, they create a barrier to the sun and you don’t have to reapply; it’s more convenient.”

Most of today’s golfwear companies use protective textile fabrics in their shirts, pants, jackets and more, and sun sleeves can be worn with short-sleeved shirts.

2. Take the wide view
You might not like the look of a wide-brimmed hat, but if you insist on foregoing the sunscreen, this is your best option. Look for the right sunglasses, too — ones that provide UV protection. The wraparound style has the best coverage.

Skin cancer most commonly surfaces on the body’s thinnest skin — the lips, ears and nose, so leave no skin exposed.

3. Don’t go with the glow
There is no such thing as a glow that’s healthy for your skin, Wishner says.

“In the U.S., people perceive having darker skin as a sign of affluence, that they have more leisure time,” he said.

While a tan might look good, it can be harmful to your health.

“A lot of people think that a tan is healthy; that’s a falsehood,” Wishner said. “Skin is changing color to a darker shade to protect itself because it’s injured. The body is producing melanin to absorb the UV rays to protect itself from burning.”

If your skin blisters and peels, you double your chance of getting skin cancer, and research shows that melanoma is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage in people with darker skin.

4. Always cover up
Even if the sky is full of clouds, your skin is still at risk.

Up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can still penetrate on a cloudy day. And since the sun is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the prime time for golfers, it’s best to be prepared even for a rainy day.

“It’s not the visible light we’re trying to protect our skin from, it’s the invisible UV light,” Wishner said. “It may be cloudy now but who says the marine layer may not disappear in an hour?”

5. Give it some time
It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for sunscreen’s effectiveness to kick in.

“So for those 30 minutes, you’re unprotected,” Wishner said. “You need to put it on before you leave your house. That way you can wash your hands and not have to worry about lotion on your hands, which can affect your grip.”

For more information on sun protection for golfers, visit

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