Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Sun and Seniors: Tips for Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection
Sun Exposure in Older Age
It’s always nice to enjoy a warm sunny day. Just being in the sunlight can enhance your mood and helps our bodies absorb Vitamin D, essential for bone strength. However, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. It effects people of all ages and skin color. People over the age of 65 are even more susceptible to this disease, in part due to the lifetime exposure to the sun. In fact, as many as 45% to 50% of this age group will have developed a form of skin cancer.
Don’t let this stop you from enjoying the outdoors. It is important to remember that these statistics do not mean that everyone will indeed develop skin cancer. There are precautions that can be taken to decrease your risk from sun exposure. It is never too late to begin using these precautions and you should continue to practice prevention throughout your life.
- Wear sunglasses to prevent the sun from damaging your eyes.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen. Check for sunblock the provides protection of at least 30 spf, checking that it also helps against UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunblock 30 minutes before going outside and every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Wear clothes that prevent harmful rays from touching your skin. Broad brimmed hats, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are best.
- Wearing sunblock and protective clothing does not prevent all the damage from the rays. It is still a good idea to take a break from the sunshine and limit your exposure. Especially limit your time in sunlight between 10:00am and 2:00pm.
- Install a UV blocking window film to your car and home. Most windows help block UVB rays, but adding a film can help prevent exposure to UVA rays, as well. Newer technology allows for a clear view to the outdoors. A bonus for installing these films is that they can help reduce energy costs!
- Some common medications, like antibiotics, can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Check with your physician or pharmacist if any of your prescriptions may put you at a higher risk.
- Just because you can’t see the sun, doesn’t mean its rays are finding you. Even the reflection of the sun off reflective surfaces and effect your skin. This includes the winter months. Wearing sunblock year-round is recommended.
If detected early, some skin cancers can be treated easier. Skin discoloration and changes are not necessarily a normal part of aging. Check your body for moles or abnormal discolorations. Have your physician check your skin regularly for new developments. The American Geriatrics Society recommends following ABCDE when observing your skin.
- Asymmetry – If a mole develops and looks even from one side to the other, it may be of less concern.
- Borders – Normal skin deformations are smooth around the edges.
- Color – Moles that have various colors or shades through them should be looked at by a physician.
- Diameter – A spot larger than a pencil eraser should be looked at by a physician.
- Evolution – If the area has changed or grown larger recently, have it looked at by a physician.
Being connected to the outdoors is always a good idea. By protecting yourself from the elements and using precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of a day in the sun.