You may not be surprised to learn that skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. Research shows that one person dies of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, every hour.
These are frustrating statistics for physicians, largely because many types of skin cancer are preventable if you practice good sun safety habits. Here are six steps you can take to help lower your odds of developing the disease.
6 Skin Safety Tips for Seniors
- Apply sunscreen. Many older adults grew up not wearing sunscreen. They tend to be less compliant about following their doctor’s orders when it comes to sunscreen. It’s important to remind the older adults in your life that applying sunscreen whenever you will be outside or riding in a car is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer.
- Apply ample amounts often. Another mistake people make is not applying enough sunscreen for protection. They might buy a sunscreen with a high SPF and think they won’t have to apply it multiple times each day because it’s stronger. That is a myth. No matter how strong its SPF, sunscreen still needs to be reapplied every two to four hours as directed on the bottle. If you are swimming or sweating, it should be applied even more often. Use at least one full ounce with every application.
- Wear protective clothing. What you wear outdoors can also affect your risk for skin cancer. Look for lightweight but densely woven fabrics, as they typically offer greater sun protection. Some even come with SPF built in. A hat that shields your face is another must. Finally, don’t forget about the tops of your feet. They are vulnerable to sun damage, too, but they are often neglected. Keep feet covered or apply sunscreen if you are wearing sandals.
- Avoid peak sun hours. The sun’s rays are typically the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to work errands, walking, and gardening into your morning or evening schedule so you aren’t outside during peak sun hours.
- Self-exam. Conduct a head-to-toe skin cancer self-exam at least once a month. Look for new or unusual-looking spots that have irregular borders, are different colors, or have increased in size. Use these tips to learn how to conduct a step-by-step inspection of your or a loved one’s skin.
- See the dermatologist annually. Skin care experts suggest adults have an annual skin cancer check with a dermatologist. These healthcare professionals are trained to detect cancer at its earliest stages.
Finally, know that the sun’s rays can be damaging to your eyes, too. Always wear UVA/UVB sunglasses to protect your eyes when you will be outdoors or riding in a car.
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