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What You Need To Know About Skin Cancer

May 3, 2016

What You Need To Know About Skin Cancer
While most of us enjoy the lift in mood we receive from spending time outdoors on a sunny day, the sun can be dangerous. This is especially true for older adults who often have thinner, more delicate skin.
Skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer with about 3.5 million cases of skin cancer being diagnosed here in the U.S. each year. It’s important for each of us, especially our seniors, in the state of Indiana and across the country to educate ourselves about how to prevent it.
Skin Cancer 101
There are different types of skin cancer, all with varying degrees of severity in terms of treatment and risk factors: 
  • Basal Cell Skin Cancer/ Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): This is the most frequently occurring type of skin cancer. It is defined as “abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line…the outermost layer of the skin.” BCC growths are usually caused by both prolonged and occasional sun exposure. While BCC is typically not life threatening, any abnormal growths on your skin should be taken seriously and treated by a physician in a timely fashion.
  • Squamous Cell Skin Cancer/ Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): The second most common form of skin cancer, SCC is defined as an “uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers.” Unlike BCC growths, SCC growths can be deadly if left untreated. SCC is usually caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays over the course of a lifetime and even from tanning beds.
  • Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma can be curable if diagnosed before it spreads. Melanoma is caused by intense, sometimes occasional, sun exposure that usually results in a sunburn. It causes DNA damage to skin cells, which trigger mutations that create malignant tumors.
 Helping Seniors Stay Safe in the Sun
It’s almost impossible to avoid the sun completely, but there are steps that Indiana seniors and their caregivers can take to protect themselves against the sun’s harmful rays.
  1. Limit your sun exposure. This is true for everyone, but people with pale skin, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems should be especially careful.
  2. Wear SPF 30 or higher everyday. Even in the winter, you can run the risk of soaking up dangerous UV rays. It’s important to wear sunscreen or a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher everyday. And in the summer months, be sure to continue to reapply your sunscreen every 4 hours and after you’ve gone for a swim.
  3. Invest in a pair of sunglasses. The skin around your eyes can become especially vulnerable to sun exposure as you age. By investing in a pair of sunglasses that has 100% UVA and UVB protection, you will also be investing in your health.
  4. Find a great hat. Whether it’s your favorite Hoosiers hat or a big floppy beach hat, wearing a hat in the sun will help to keep the sun’s rays off of your face. As a bonus, in addition to keeping you protected against skin cancer, it can also help to prevent the appearance of wrinkles on your face.
 Coping with skin cancer, in any form, can take a toll on your body, mind and soul.  At Five Star Indiana, our Lifestyle360 program takes a holistic approach to wellness. Taking good care of your skin is an integral part of living your best life every day.