“He immediately sent me off for a biopsy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. I endured the outcome wait without a thought for the result; cancer never crossed my mind. I was completely shocked two weeks later when told by my GP I had an aggressive form of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. I returned to the hospital a week later to have the cancer removed.
“Further to this, I underwent two successful operations on my left arm, which removed the cancer cells completely, leaving only a scar. It certainly turned my world upside down; developing skin cancer is something that I never thought I would be prone to, but looking back I now know how naïve and lucky I was.
“I am fair skinned with red hair and have a lot of moles, a triple whammy trait that is right up there on the scale of vulnerability to skin cancer. Add the fact I have worked outdoors for most of my life, with a pretty lousy sun protection habit, and trouble was just waiting to happen.
“It was only the earache that got me to my GP, resulting in an early diagnosis, which meant I was treated quickly and successfully. But it could have been much worse. I now make sure that I give my skin a regular check, and protect myself from the sun at certain times of the day. Importantly, I will never put myself in a situation where I will let my skin burn.
“Following my experiences, I am keen to ensure that fellow golfers – as well as others working outdoors – are aware of ways to avoid heightening the risk of skin cancer. As well as the Melanoma Fund, I also work at the forefront of raising awareness with Macmillan and cancer specialists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
“I’ve spoken to a few pros about the fact that skin cancer is now epidemic and golfers are at a high risk, but most still neglect sun protection. This has got to change and it starts with education and awareness, something the Slip! Slap! Swing! campaign offers everyone in golf.”
Five top sun protection tips
When you’re focused on your swing or giving a lesson out in the sun, you’re not thinking about your skin. Sun protection is the best way to prevent skin cancer. These top five tips are for everyone; for you the PGA Professional and for those you teach or speak to at your golf facility, but especially for those who are prone to burning, have lots of moles or a family history of skin cancer.
- If you do nothing else, make sure you keep sunscreen (SPF30+), sunglasses, a hat and a large umbrella in your summer kit bag.
- Apply sunscreen (SPF30+) at least 20 minutes before teeing off to ensure it is effective.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours on sunny days, or around the 9th hole, using a sunscreen applicator to avoid a greasy grip!
- Use a chubby sunblock stick to protect lips, nose and ears.
- Check skin every month or so and if you spot any changes, visit your GP immediately.
The PGA is one of a number of organisations supporting Slip! Slap! Swing! a sun protection campaign to raise awareness of the risks of skin cancer to all those who play or work in golf. Visit www.melanoma-fund.co.uk/golf to find out more.