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Golfers warned to be ‘skin savvy’ as cancer rates soar

10.41am 26th October 2020 - Management Topics

This summer, the Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign persuaded golf to get sun savvy. This autumn the Melanoma Fund is back encouraging golfers to get skin savvy, by carrying out a monthly skin check to help avoid late detection of melanoma, a problem more prevalent in men. 

The initiative uses an animated video, plus easy-to-follow skin check advice explaining how, when and why to check, and most importantly, what to look out for using the ‘ABCDE’ guide (see main image).

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but is easier to treat in its earliest stages. If left it has the potential to spread to other parts of the body, making it profoundly more difficult to treat, impacting upon quality of life, and life expectancy. While mortality rates amongst women has increased by 80%, rates in men have more than tripled (233%) since the early 70s.

One of the reasons for this disparity is due to men failing to check out suspect moles or lesions. Over 60% never check their backs – where skin cancer often occurs in men – to see if existing moles have changed, or if new ones have appeared, and end up leaving it ‘too late’. 

Sam Orkar, melanoma and skin cancer surgeon, said: “I often hear men who have been diagnosed with melanoma say; ‘I noticed it but didn’t bother because it wasn’t giving me any trouble.’  It is usually a partner who convinces them to see their GP, and it’s the denial that’s causing the trouble.” 

Melanoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer, with rates having more than doubled since the 1990s, and around 44 melanoma cases now diagnosed daily. A significant factor contributing to these statistics are increased periods of intense sun exposure; whether through working or playing sport in the sun, overseas holidays, or the use of sunbeds.  

Golfers and greenkeepers are at an increased risk of skin cancer due to highly reflective surfaces on a golf course, as well as the time spent on it. This initiative aims to raise awareness of a simple health routine that can save lives, urging anyone concerned about a mole or lesion to see their GP immediately. 

“Golfers tend to avoid applying sunscreen due to ignorance, lack of motivation, being late for a round and possibly for fear of a greasy grip. They neglect to get a mole or unusual lesion checked for fear of wasting their GPs time,” said Dr Tony Buckland, who is a GP and a keen golfer. “Nothing is more frightening than a cancer diagnosis, so pick up the phone; it’s what we’re here for, even with COVID around.” 

Currently only 11% of people have their skin checked by a dermatologist and only 33% check their own skin annually, despite dermatologists recommending that this should be carried out monthly. The initiative provides the following advice: 

CHECK IT – Learn how, why, and when to perform a skin check, or consider a professional check when and where possible.
GET TO KNOW IT – Although we are all at risk, this increases for those who burn easily, have lots of moles, fair skin, freckles, and those with red or light hair.
REPORT IT – If worried or suspicious about a mole or lesion visit your GP immediately. Trust your intuition; if it feels wrong, get it seen.
PREVENT IT – Review and pledge to improve your sun protection habits. Wear protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, SPF30+ broad spectrum sunscreen and seek shade. 

Dr Elizabeth Blakeway, consultant dermatologist says; “Protect your skin and it will protect you, so ‘get skin savvy’ with regular checks. Time is of the essence when it comes to melanoma, and delaying a diagnosis can result in a potentially devastating outcome, so getting familiar with your skin is vital.” 

Michelle Baker, CEO of the Melanoma Fund, said: “With over 200 golf clubs getting Sun Protection Accredited to the Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign this year, we are really creating impact. We will continue this work after summer to keep golf engaged, educated, and ‘skin savvy’, as well as ‘sun savvy’.”

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