The Importance of Sun Safety and the Risk of Skin Cancer

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 6, 2016
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Finally! The nice weather is upon us and that means most people are starting to spend more time outside in the fresh air under the warm sun. This is the perfect time of year to remind your patients of the risk of skin cancer, especially on seniors. 

As a health care professional, you're likely more than aware of the danger seniors face when it comes to skin cancer. However, you're also probably aware of the challenge it can be to get your patients to take the threat seriously. But if there are only a couple of points you can use to get through to them, it's the who, what and where of skin cancer facts. Use these tips to emphasize the most important points of sun safety and seniors' risk of developing skin cancer. 

Who is the most vulnerable to skin cancer?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, seniors are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer simply because they are older. About half of American seniors who are about 65 years old will have at least one type of skin cancer. This is particularly true if you are a white, older male. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, as it grows quickly, and can particularly dangerous if you don't catch it early enough.

What can seniors do to prevent skin cancer?
Next, it's important to teach your seniors how they can proactively prevent serious sun damage, as they are never to old to start. Sunscreen is everyone's best friend, but PerfScience.com reported that an broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher will offer the most protection. This should be applied liberally all over the senior's exposed skin, including any balding spots. Other than that, it's important to recommend that seniors stay well hydrated and wear protective clothing and hats to prevent the sun from touching too much of their skin. 

Where do the signs of skin cancer appear on your body?
Proactive prevention also means knowing where early signs of skin cancer occur and what they looks like so your seniors can get the help they need right away. The most obvious signs of skin cancer are irregular moles, typically they will be black or brown in color, explained AllAboutSeniors.org. However the source also reported that if you have skin cancer you will also see one or more of the following signs:

  • Asymmetrical moles: If your seniors' mole is shaped oddly, or if one side differs from the other, that could be a sign of skin cancer. Also beware that these can change size, shape or color if they're unhealthy.
  • Irregular coloring: Not all cancerous moles will appear black and brown, some will also vary in color. If your mole has different hues across it your patients should have it looked at. Other colors to look out for include white, red or even blue.
  • Bigger than normal: A freckle grows to be bigger than about 6mm - or about the size of a pencil eraser, the source noted - it could be cancerous.