Skin cancer among senior citizens is on the rise; in fact, between 40 and 50 percent of people 65 and older will have at least one skin cancer. The average age for people diagnosed with melanoma is 61. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, older adult males have the highest risk of developing melanoma. As skins ages, it loses its ability to protect itself and becomes more vulnerable. It is important that older adults protect their skin and limit exposure to the sun.
Sunburns are not the only causes of skin damage and skin cancer. Tanning beds were introduced in the United States in 1978 and remained unregulated until 1988. Many people overused tanning beds, not knowing the damage they were causing to their skin.
When you go outside, especially during the summer, try these tips:
- Don’t try to get a tan. Tans increase your risk of getting skin cancer.
- Find shade in your outside environment. If you can’t find a shade tree or a covered porch, use a large golf umbrella.
- Stay inside between the sun’s peak hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
- Use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) on any exposed skin regardless of how long you are in the sun.
- Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, when possible. Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat to protect the top of your head, ears and neck.
- Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use moisturizer daily to keep skin from becoming dry.
You should also check your body monthly for moles that are changing in color or size. Look for ragged edges on moles or moles where one half does not match the other half. If any mole is larger than a pencil eraser or changing in color, shape or size, see your family physician. He/she can advise whether a mole needs further examination. If you are over 50 years old, you should have annual skin cancer screenings with your doctor to check for moles, skin patches or blemishes.
You can enjoy the outdoors and the warm summer months-just take extra caution to protect yourself and stay safe.
Jill Endicott, FNP-C, completed her medical education at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Jill is the Nurse Practitioner at Freeman Seneca Family Medicine Clinic.