But it’s an important subject for both the aging loved ones you are caregiver for and for yourself.
The World’s Most Common Cancer
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, an international organization devoted to combating the world’s most common form of cancer, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.
Fortunately, skin cancer is highly preventable. Between 86 and 90 percent of all skin cancers are related to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, according to Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
Understanding how to protect your skin year around is important.
You might already know that reducing sun exposure throughout your life can prevent:
- brown spots
- leathery skin
Seniors and the Sun
As we age, our skin becomes thinner and doesn’t rejuvenate as easily. This makes us more susceptible to sunburn and other damage, including skin cancer. Follow these tips to help your aging loved ones protect themselves.
1. Use sunscreen.
Apply SPF 30 or higher liberally. Reapply every few hours or sooner if your loved one has been sweating. Remember, even on cloudy days the sun’s most dangerous rays can penetrate the atmosphere. It’s important to apply, and re-apply, sunscreen even if the sky looks overcast.
2. Hang out in the shade.
Seek out shady areas whenever possible. If you’re going for a walk, stick to paths shaded by trees. If you’re at the beach or relaxing poolside, sit under an umbrella.
3. Cover up.
Cover as much of your senior family member’s body as is possible, including wearing long sleeves, long pants, and a hat. Stick with light-colored, lightweight fabrics like cotton. Darker colors absorb the heat from the sun and put your aging loved one at risk for heatstroke.
4. Check your loved one’s prescriptions.
Some medications, including antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and water pills, can make skin more sensitive to the sun. Check with your loved one’s doctor or read package inserts to determine the level of sun exposure (if any) that is safe with each of their medications.
5. Choose indoor activities during the warmest parts of the day.
Plan your day wisely and encourage the older adults in your life to do the same. Run errands in the early morning or late afternoon. This helps you limit the amount of time you spend outdoors between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. These hours are typically when heat and humidity are at their worst.
Use the time to enjoy indoor activities instead. At Five Star Senior Living communities, for instance, residents can indulge in a leisurely gourmet lunch, and then enjoy an art class, study creative writing, or take in a matinee movie.
Stay Safe All Summer
It’s important to follow these skin safety tips year-round, but especially in warmer weather when most people spend more time outside. Doing so can protect you and your senior loved ones from becoming one of the 20 percent of Americans who develop skin cancer.