Protecting Seniors From Skin Cancer

With over 3 million new diagnoses per year, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. This otherwise common disease is characterized by the abnormal growth and skin cells. When skin cells grow the wrong way, they may form masses of cancerous tissue.

Skin cancer can affect men and women of all ages. Seniors, however, often have higher rates of skin cancer than younger adults. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), older men are particularly at risk for skin cancer. The AAD states that men over the age of 50 have a significantly higher risk of developing skin cancer than the general population. With that said, senior women of a similar age can develop skin cancer as well.

The 3 Different Types of Skin Cancer

Not all forms of skin cancer are the same. There are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Of those three types, melanoma is the most dangerous. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 6,800 men and women in the United States will die from melanoma in 2020.

The good news is that melanoma is also the least common type of skin cancer. Only about one in 100 cases of skin cancer involve melanoma. The other 99 cases involve either basal cell or squamous cell.

Limit Midday Sun Exposure

Seniors can lower their risk of developing skin cancer by limiting their exposure to the midday sun. There’s a correlation between sun exposure and skin cancer. Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays that can penetrate through the skin to increase the risk of abnormal cellular activities.

While the sun constantly beams down UV rays throughout the day, UV rays are strongest during the midday hours. Depending on the season, seniors will typically be exposed to the highest levels of UV sunlight from between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Seniors can still go outdoors during these hours, but they should try to limit the amount their sun exposure to minimize their risk of skin cancer

Cover Exposed Skin

Another way for seniors to lower their risk of developing skin cancer is to cover their exposed skin. Some people assume that UV sunlight can pass through clothing, but this isn’t necessarily true. Most fabrics are able to block UV sunlight. If you can’t see your skin through a garment, UV sunlight won’t be able to penetrate the garment.

When staying outdoors for longer than 20 minutes, seniors should try to cover their exposed skin. Doing so will protect against sunburn while also lowering the risk of skin cancer.

Use Sunscreen Lotion

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that sunscreen lotion can protect seniors from skin cancer. According to one study, people who use sunscreen lotion daily are 40 percent less likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer and 50 percent less likely to develop melanoma skin cancer than their counterparts who don’t use sunscreen lotion.

Not all sunscreen lotions offer the same level of protection against UV sunlight. There are two primary types of sunscreen lotions: regular and broad spectrum. Regular sunscreen lotion only offers protection against UVB rays, whereas broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion protects against both UVB and UVA rays.

Whether it’s regular or broad spectrum, the amount of protection sunscreen lotion offers is measured in Sun Protection Factor (SPF). If a sunscreen lotion has a high SPF rating, it will block out a substantial amount of UVB sunlight. A 30-SPF sunscreen lotion, for example, blocks roughly 97% of UVB sunlight. Of course, SPF only applies to UVB sunlight. Nonetheless, if a sunscreen lotion is labeled “broad protection,” it will block out at least some UVA sunlight as well.

Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses do more than just improve visibility when it’s sunny outside; they offer protection against UV sunlight and, therefore, skin cancer. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body, including the eyelids. With the right sunglasses, seniors can shield their eyelids from UV sunlight, thereby lowering their risk of developing skin cancer.

Keep in mind that only some sunglasses protect against UV sunlight. Unless the lenses are designed with a UV-blocking film, they won’t offer any meaningful amount of protection. Therefore, seniors should choose UV-blocking sunglasses to protect their eyes and eyelids from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Following a healthy diet can help protect seniors from skin cancer. There are certain nutrients that, when consumed, promotes youthful skin while also protecting it from abnormal cellular activity.

Dermatologists often recommend omega-3 fatty acids to protect against skin cancer. Not to be confused with omega-6s, omega-3s consist of oils found in foods like fish, nuts and certain vegetables.

Along with omega-3s, antioxidants are good for the skin. Available in fruits and vegetables, antioxidants are nutrients that fight free radicals. They are believed to slow down cellular aging, which plays a role in skin cancer.


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