Skin Cancer Prevention: Tips for Seniors and Caregivers
Now that summer is approaching, many older adults and their families will likely be spending more time outdoors. We wanted to take a few minutes this week to share information about the risks the sun creates for older adults and offer a few prevention tips.
What Puts Seniors at Higher Risk for Sun Problems
Seniors are at greater risk for sunburn and skin cancer for a variety of reasons including:
- Fragile Skin: As we age, our skin becomes thinner and dryer. As a result, it is more fragile and sensitive to the sun.
- Medication: Some medications commonly prescribed for seniors have side effects that include increased sun sensitivity. Reactions can range from inflammation of the skin to a redness that resembles a burn.
- Previous Sunburns: The current generation of older adults didn’t use sunscreen when they were growing up. As a result, they may have suffered severe sunburn on multiple occasions. Experiencing five or more severe sunburns doubles a person’s risk for developing melanoma.
There are, however, steps you can take to help prevent skin cancer.
7 Steps to Help Prevent Skin Cancer Among Seattle Seniors
- Apply sunscreen anytime you will be outdoors or riding in a car. That includes on cloudy days. You can experience sunburn even when you can’t see the sun.
- Dermatologists recommend applying one ounce of sunscreen every two hours when you are outdoors and more frequently if you are swimming or exercising.
- Understand that not all sunscreens are equal. Different ones provide different levels of protection. Find a sunscreen that is marked “Broad Spectrum.” That label means it will protect you or your senior loved one from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Don’t make the mistake many people do and think that if you buy a high SPF sunscreen you won’t have to reapply it as often. Sunscreen with higher SPF still needs to be reapplied every two hours.
- Avoid the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM. These are usually when the sun’s rays are the most powerful. Try to take your daily walk or work in your garden early in the day or later in the evening.
- Wear a hat that shields your face from the sun and a loose-fitting, long-sleeved top to protect yourself when you are outside. UV blocking sunglasses can also help.
- Make a point of conducting a head-to-toe self-exam to check for changes in your skin once a month. This is in addition to seeing your primary care doctor or dermatologist for an annual skin exam. If you aren’t sure how to do that, The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Early Detection and Self-Exam Guide shows you how.
To learn more about the different types of skin cancer and how to recognize them, visit the Skin Cancer Information Center.