UV Awareness Month: Keeping Seniors Safe in the Sun
Protecting your skin against the sun’s ultraviolet rays is important for people of every age, but did you know that the risk of two common types of skin cancer is higher for older adults?
This is partly because of the cumulative effect UV rays have on older adults, who may have spent decades in the sun. Skin cancer risk also increases as we age because of decreased autoimmune function. Additionally, benign skin lesions, brown spots, and other signs of aging might make it more difficult for older adults to identify potentially malignant spots in time for effective treatment.
Since July is UV Safety Awareness Month, it’s a good time to help your senior loved one reduce their risk of skin cancer and stay safe in the summer sun.
Understand the Types of UV Rays
The sun releases different types of UV rays: UVB, UVA, and UVC. The Earth’s ozone layer absorbs all UVC rays, and many (but not all!) UVB rays. Exposure to UVB rays can cause visible effects: Sunburn, suntan, brown spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer.
As the Earth’s ozone layer is depleted by man-made chemicals and natural gases, we have less protection from UVB rays, which is why it’s increasingly important to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF30 whenever you or a loved one is outdoors.
But UVB rays aren’t the only ones we should worry about.
The sun’s UVA rays could be considered invisible killers. These rays seep through some forms of glass and can cause wrinkles, brown spots, and skin cancer without feeling warm or causing sunburn.
If your aging loved one is taking a long car ride or enjoys sitting by the window in the mid-day sun, make sure they wear sunscreen on their face, hands and arms.
Stay Indoors When the Sun Is Brightest
To avoid the heat and danger of UVB radiation, encourage your aging loved one to stay indoors between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM during the peak of summer.
Enjoy a gourmet lunch. Take a class. Or watch a movie.
There’s plenty to do until evening when the sun begins to fade.
Always Wear SPF 30 and Reapply Frequently
Whether it’s winter or summer, indoors or out, the sun’s rays can wreak havoc on your loved one’s skin – and health! Always apply SPF 30 on all exposed body parts, and reapply every two hours. More often if you are in the water or working up a sweat.
See a Dermatologist Regularly
Skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are found nearly exclusively in older adults. Malignant melanoma occurs 10 times more frequently in older adults than in those under 40.
Make sure your loved one sees a dermatologist annually for a complete exam. In between visits, keep an eye on any spots or moles when you visit your loved one. If you notice any changes, make a dermatologist appointment immediately.
Practice Sun Safety Year Round
Since prevention is key, following these sun safety steps year round may help your aging loved one reduce their risk of skin cancer for years to come.