Sun exposure an occupational hazard on TOUR
'It looked like I'd been in a bar fight,' Adam Scott said of his skin cancer surgery
- Rory Sabbatini had a squamous cell carcinoma removed from his face in 2010. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Once dubbed one of the world’s sexiest men by People magazine, Adam Scott looked a bit more garish after a procedure in 2011 to remove a Basil Cell Carcinoma, a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, from his face.
“It looked like I’d been in a bar fight,” says Scott, who received nearly 30 stitches and still has a scar on his nose from the surgery. “But the procedure made me less lazy with applying sun protection because it was quite painful to have it removed.
“I’m just trying to be as responsible as I can because I don’t want my whole body hacked up by the time I’m an old man.”
Scott is hardly alone when it comes to skin cancer in his native country.
Australia has the dubious honor of being known as the skin cancer capital of the world with nearly 750,000 Australians affected each year -- roughly 2,000 die on an annual basis.
He is not alone on the PGA TOUR, either.
A number of players have had varying degrees of battles with skin cancer. Being out in the sun as much as eight hours a day is an occupational hazard. With the official start of summer this Saturday, the sun will only get stronger, too.
Rory Sabbatini, Brian Davis, Aron Price, among others, have all battled the disease that will affect more than one in five Americans (and one in three Caucasians) in a lifetime. More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States each year -- 9,710 are expected to die in 2014 according to The American Cancer Society.
“You don’t realize how much damage you are doing because we’re out here for an extended period of time,” said Sabbatini, who in 2010 had a squamous cell carcinoma removed from his face. The surgeon dug one millimeter deep and another millimeter wide to remove the growth.
“A lot of golfers I think it’s an afterthought,” Sabbatini added.
Most have been able to catch it early, but not all.
Skin Cancer Awareness
Skin Cancer Awareness
Price had three non-melanoma cancers removed before a fourth mole had to be taken out a couple of years ago. It was discovered to be melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers.
Just over a decade ago, my own father was one of them.
For the better part of 20 years he had played golf every weekend in the summer months in Connecticut. He had fair skin and didn’t use sunscreen nearly enough.
By the time it was discovered that he had melanoma it was already Stage 4 and had spread to his lymph nodes. A year later he was gone. He was just 56.
“Golfers spend a significant amount of time outdoors so they’re definitely at a higher risk than the average person,” says Dr. Anokhi Jambusaria-Pahlajani, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. “We see a lot of golfers and tennis players. They have signs of more damage than the average patient and it manifests itself at an earlier age.”
But simply putting on sunscreen often isn’t enough.
“I tell everybody, I recommend sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and with both UVA and UVB protection,” Dr. Jambusaria-Pahlajani said. “It should be applied all over the body to anything that’s exposed and reapplied ideally every 90 minutes.”
Other precautions can and should be taken, too.
Because the sun’s harmful rays can penetrate normal clothing, Sabbatini and several other players wear clothing that has sunscreen built into it. The South African also wears a wide-brimmed hat.
“Most BCC happens on the head and neck and those are the hardest to treat because it’s a sensitive location,” Dr. Jambusaria-Pahlajani said. “A baseball hat is not good enough, either. It doesn’t do a great job of protecting the area so I usually recommend a brim that goes all the way around the hat and is at least 4 inches wide.”
Early detection is also key because it can be caught when it’s small.
The most important thing, Dr. Jambusaria-Pahlajani says, is to look for new or changing spots on the body. “Knowing your skin is very important,” she says. “Everyone should set aside an hour once a month to have someone look at their skin. Not a lot of patients do that.”
Rory McIlroy learned a similar lesson. While on vacation as a kid, he got a particularly bad burn from the sun. Now he puts on a moisturizer that includes SPF when he gets out of the shower. He also applies sunscreen before and during his round and sees a dermatologist regularly.
Scott, meanwhile, has another suggestion.
“There’s a saying in Australia: slip, slop, slap,” he said. “Slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. It’s just part of the job. We’re out here a lot.”
FACTS ABOUT SKIN CANCER
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than 2 million people affected each year.
Treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006 and one in five Americans will develop some kind of skin cancer over the course of their lifetime.
Here is a closer look at some statistics:
-- Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
-- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the U.S. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow.
-- Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer with an estimated 700,000 cases of SCC are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
-- The incidence of squamous cell carcinoma has been on the rise with increases up to 200 percent over the past three decades in the U.S.
-- Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either BCC or SCC at least once.
-- One person dies of melanoma every hour in the U.S.
-- An estimated 76,100 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014 and approximatel 9,710 people will die from it this year.
-- Of the seven most common cancers in the U.S., melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing. Between 2000 and 2009, incidence climbed 1.9 percent annually.
-- 1 in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime.
-- Survival with melanoma increased from 49 percent between 1950 and 1954 to 92 percent between 1996 and 2003.
-- The five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has spread to regional lymph nodes or other organs, is about 98 percent in the U.S. That rate falls to 62 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 16 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
-- A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
-- Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.
Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation