By Dr. Nilesh L. Vora,
Southern California is hotter than ever, and drought certainly hasn’t helped the change to warmer weather. That’s why it’s more important than ever for older people to develop a plan to protect their skin from the sun.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is now the most common type of cancer in the United States, with most cases seen in people over the age of 65. Skin cancer is caused by UV damage to skin cells. Inflict irreparable damage. The main types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma, mainly affect older adults.
Skin cancer is prevalent among the elderly in the United States. Adults over the age of 65 are more susceptible to skin cancer because of fragile skin, medical conditions, and medications they may be taking.
Why skin protection is important
According to the CDC, less than half of older people protect their skin from the sun when they’re outside for an hour or more on a sunny day.
Prolonged sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. Other factors that can put you at risk for skin cancer are:
- A history of sunburn.
- I have many moles.
- be fair.
- Skin prone to burns, freckles, and redness.
- Family history of skin cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, previous sunburn, especially experienced at a young age, is a strong predictor of future skin cancer, especially melanoma. Even if you have a mole all your life, look at the mole and see if it changes shape, color, or texture. Moles in general are normal and nothing to worry about, but it is important to evaluate moles that are mixed in color, asymmetrical, larger than 6 mm, or vary in size or shape.
Light-skinned people tan more easily and are at a higher risk of skin cancer, but the reality is that anyone, no matter how dark their skin tone, can be at risk of skin cancer. .
It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a problem when the sun is shining, it’s a year-round problem, even when it’s cloudy or smog/hazy. It is imperative that seniors practice sun protection year-round to reduce the amount of UV light that hits their skin.
Here are some tips for practicing sun safety effectively all year round.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours.
- Seek shade as much as possible.
- Avoid the sun from 10am to 4pm
- Wear cool, light-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs to keep you cool.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat or visor to protect your head, face, ears and neck.
- Sunglasses if possible. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause skin cancer on the eyelids. Consider glasses with transition lenses to protect your eyes outdoors.
Self-check and conversation with a dermatologist
For early detection of skin cancer, it is important for older adults to perform monthly skin cancer self-examinations to detect skin changes and moles. For hard-to-see areas, ask your doctor, partner, or friend to do a skin test.
Pay attention to the areas most exposed to the sun, such as the neck, shoulders, ears, and top of the scalp. Note changes in skin color, texture, and feel, such as:
- Irregularly shaped, bordered, or colored moles.
- New growths, spots or bumps that increase in size over time.
- Wounds that don’t heal in weeks.
We also recommend that all patients visit their dermatologist annually, especially as they age.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many dermatologists detect precancerous lesions at age 40, so it’s even more important for people over the age of 55 to get screened annually. When treating precancerous skin spots, multiple repeat treatments may be required, such as cryotherapy to destroy skin lesions.
Scheduling a full skin exam with your doctor can help detect skin cancer early. Medicare may cover medically necessary dermatology services. Not all skin lesions are life-threatening, but it’s important to see your doctor if you notice any skin irregularities or changes.
For more information about how to protect yourself from skin cancer and the treatments available if you happen to get skin cancer, visit memorialcare.org/cancercare.
Dr. Nilesh Vora is a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist, and medical director of the Memorial Care Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. He also chairs the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the MemorialCare Medical Foundation. He is a generalist with a professional interest in lung cancer. Gastrointestinal cancers such as colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancer, and malignant hematologic diseases.