New Research Reveals That People Who Play This Sport Have a 240% Increased Risk of Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Melanoma Concept Illustration

Golfers in Australia have a 2.4 times higher risk of skin cancer than the general population, with one in four diagnosed, according to a study by the University of South Australia. Despite golf’s health benefits, the study advises players to prioritize sun protection.

Golf is a game open to all, bridging the gap between different generations, abilities, and backgrounds. It offers an ideal mix of physical activity, social interaction, and outdoor enjoyment.

However, reconsider before you prepare to swing. Recent research from the University of South Australia reveals that golfers are at a heightened risk of skin cancer compared to the overall population.

Conducted with global partners, the study shows that one in four golfers had received a skin cancer diagnosis, indicating a 2.4 times greater risk of the disease.

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,” Dr. Stenner says.

“For example, if you walk an average golf course, you’re walking at least five to seven kilometers 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 of engaging in golf, this study explored the risks of playing golf as golfers tend to play for four or more hours in the sun, using various sun protection strategies.

“We found that 27% of golfers – or one in four – had been diagnosed with skin cancer, as compared with 7% 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.”

Skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia each year. Every year, skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers in Australia.

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,” Dr. Stenner says.

“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.”

Reference: “Golf participants in Australia have a higher lifetime prevalence of skin cancer compared with the general population” by Brad Stenner, Terry Boyle, Daryll Archibald, Nigel Arden, Roger Hawkes and Stephanie Filbay, 1 July 2023, BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.
DOI: 10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001597

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