If you take your health seriously, you understand the importance of avoiding cancer.
So why is it that many of us still avoid sunscreen when playing golf?
Michelle Baker, CEO of the Melanoma Fund and creator of the Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign explores the excuses and provides some solutions to help get you on track.
Looking after your health not only improves your life and looks, but also lowers your susceptibility to the nasty surprises guaranteed to catch you on the curve. From heart disease, joint issues, diabetes, to some types of cancer, which will strike half of us.
Many of us 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. We check our ‘boobs ‘n’ balls’ for lumps and bumps and get ourselves to the GP immediately if we do spot anything sinister.
So why is it that so many of us refuse to take sun protection seriously, and are more intent on lowering our handicap than our skin cancer risk?
Despite the overwhelming body of research, that proves categorically just how dangerous too much UV exposure can be, a recent survey of 8,500 golfers by SMS Marketing, undertaken by Melanoma Fund, reveals that only 42% 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 is time to get some things into perspective.
Getting in the habit
To make it clear, you absolutely need to wear sunscreen every time you plan to go outside for longer than 20 minutes, no matter what the weather forecast predicts. If this idea makes you cringe, let us explore why, your excuse, and see if we can quash it!
“But 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.
Solution: Fake it every time. I recommend choosing a gradual tanner which is easy to apply and impossible to distinguish from a real tan.
“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. As a result of neglect in the sun, 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, this is a form of sun damage which indicates your skin is struggling, and can be a pre-cursor to skin cancer.
Solution: Look objectively at your skin. If it is struggling, help it out this summer.
“Skin cancer happens to others”
Aside the aesthetic issues, which may hopefully be enough to send you running off to the chemist, the sun's most serious threat is that it is the major cause of skin cancer, which 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.
Solution: We all know someone affected by skin cancer. Ensure that someone is not you.
“I avoid a greasy sport grip!”
Many of us will go out to play tennis, cricket or golf wearing sunscreen, 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.
Solution: Simply use a chubby stick, an applicator or use a small damp towel to wipe hands clean.
“Oh I never use lotions?!”
This one is surely aimed at men, as women have this in hand. To start, extract yourself from the 60’s – 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 or worse, is worse than putting something on their skin. If you still feel squeamish, ask anyone who has suffered skin cancer, and I guarantee you will be diving into a big pot of SPF30 in no time.
Solution: Apply SPF30 after washing your face in the morning to develop a habit.
“I simply forget”
Do you forget to clean your teeth twice a day? 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 have not developed this as a habit, something you could start, right now.
Solution: As above. You can do this.
“I wear it abroad but not in the UK & Ireland”
With sunscreen advertising regularly featuring beaches and sparkling seas, it is easy to think that 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!
Solution: Keep a bottle in the car, your kit bag or in your gardening bag. Keep it handy!
“I use it on my face but not on my body”
This is a typical attitude, but again it is simply a habit. All areas are prone to sun damage, and that can be evidenced by looking at the arms and legs of someone over the age of 50. This skin is aged by the sun in the same way as your face. Melanoma in women in most common on the legs, and in men on the trunk, so remember to cover all exposed areas and re-apply every two hours if out for a prolonged period.
Solution: Simply continue down after applying it to your face, on all exposed areas.
The fact is that skin cancer, unlike lots of other cancers, is totally avoidable. If any of the above resonates with you, get wise, quit the excuses and start getting into better habits – it’s never too late.
About skin cancer
Although not all types of skin cancer are fatal, all types are invasive, traumatic, and scaring, prone to being cut out in areas such as your face, which can be really debilitating, so 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 for 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.
The key to successfully treating melanoma is by early detection, which makes checking regular skin another important health habit for everyone. However very few of us do this monthly, even though this is strongly recommended by dermatologists. The key is understanding why you do it and what to look out for.
Start taking your health seriously, by adding sun protection to your game and skin checking to your routines from this summer. For further information, visit the NEW Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign launching nationally on 10th May: www.melanoma-fund.co.uk