Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Indiana Seniors
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7 Steps to Help Indiana Seniors Prevent Skin Cancer

May 14, 2015

7 Steps to Help Indiana Seniors Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is on the rise. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that five million people will be treated for it this year. One in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most deadly type. It is the only one of the seven most common forms of cancers that is increasing.

In honor of National Skin Cancer Awareness month, we have assembled information on the causes of skin cancer and prevention tips to help seniors and caregivers in Indiana stay safe.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer begins in the epidermis – the top layer – of skin. It is the result of the cells mutating. What type of skin cancer a person develops depends upon which cells the cancer starts in. There are three kinds of skin cells in the epidermis:

  • Squamous cells are located just below the surface of your skin.
  • Basal cells lie just beneath the squamous cells.
  • Melanocytes are located in the deepest part of the epidermis.

Unprotected exposure to the sun and indoor tanning beds are both contributing factors to the development of skin cancer.

Older adults in the Hoosier state should be aware of the factors that increase seniors’ risk for skin cancer. They include:

  • Seniors’ skin is often thinner and more fragile. This makes them more likely to experience severe sunburn in less time than younger adults.
  • Taking a medication that increases sun sensitivity. Common ones to be aware of are statins, diuretics, antibiotics, and NSAIDs.
  • Suffering five or more sunburns as a youth, can increase the risk for melanoma by 80%. Since adults of this generation didn’t use sunscreen very often, they likely experienced sunburns growing up.

7 Steps to Help Indiana Seniors Prevent Skin Cancer

Here are seven steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:

  1. Wear sunscreen whenever you will be outdoors or riding in a car. Even on cloudy days you are still at risk for sun burn or sun poisoning. Don’t forget to cover the backs of your knees, your ears and the tops of your hands.
  2. Choose a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum” and has an SPF of at least 15. That will filter out 93% of the sun’s rays. If you are fair-skinned, have a family history of skin cancer or live with a disease that increases your sensitivity to the sun such as Lupus or Psoriasis, you should choose an SPF 30 sunscreen.
  3. Try to avoid the midday sun. Its rays are most intense between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. If you can work your outdoor activities around those times, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer.
  4. Apply adequate amounts of sunscreen throughout the day. Dermatologists typically suggest two ounces applied every two hours you are outdoors. If you are engaging in vigorous sports activities that cause you to work up a sweat or if you are swimming, you should reapply more often.
  5. Wearing loose-fitting clothing that is light weight and covers your arms and legs can also help. Cotton or other natural fibers that protect the skin while allowing it to breathe are best.
  6. While not everyone likes to wear one, a hat that shades your face is also recommended. Worn in combination with UV protecting sunglasses, it can help prevent your face from getting burned.
  7. Be sure to check your entire body for changes in skin at least once a month. Also schedule a skin assessment with your dermatologist or primary care physician once a year. If you have additional risk factors, your physician may recommend more frequent visits. Early detection is key to successfully treating skin cancer.

To read more health and wellness tips for older adults, please visit the Five Star Senior Living Indiana Successful Aging Resource Center.