Your skin, no matter what your age, needs protection from the sun.
While a few minutes of rays daily provides health-giving benefits, long-term exposure, whether it’s in a single day or over many years, can add up to skin cancer, even for seniors.
The longer you live the more likely you are to develop skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, which notes that nearly half of those who live to age 65 in the United States will get skin cancer at least once, and that half of skin cancer-related deaths occur in those over 65.
It’s important for senior citizens, especially, to limit their sun time since most skin cancer takes place over time. Accumulated damage from the sun’s ultraviolet light damages DNA and breaks down the skin, resulting in the genetic defects that cause cancer, adds the Foundation. Statistics show that five sunburns over a lifetime more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma.
Advanced age also reduces our immunity to disease. Plus, aging skin has less fat and water, and the resultant thinning lets more UV light into the body, especially affecting those with fair skin. Years of smoking makes the risk even higher.
The good news is that seniors can prevent skin cancer in several ways. Stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, or wear long sleeves and pants, a wide-brimmed hat and UV-protection sunglasses. Wear sunscreen with SPF or higher, reapplying every two hours or after swimming, and avoid tanning beds, advises the Foundation.
Prevention also includes self skin checks monthly, looking for any growth with an irregular border, multiple colors, and increased size or change, such as pain, irritation, itching, bleeding or crusting, adds the Foundation. Finally, make an annual visit to a dermatologist for a total-body exam.