Summer Sun Protection: Checking for Skin Cancer

Posted by Dave Tomar on July 07, 2014

Summer Sun Protection: Checking for Skin Cancer

The summer is here and that means all kinds of good stuff like boardwalks, beaches and barbecues. But if you aren’t careful, it could also mean burning. The sun helps your garden grow, gives birds a reason to sing and can generally put a smile on your face. That same sun, however, can be responsible for some very serious health concerns if you don’t protect yourself.  

In fact, recent studies show that skin cancer is on the rise amongst seniors. The research attributes this increase to changes in lifestyle.  Seniors are more active than ever. They’re getting out more, engaging in more outdoor recreational activities and generally experiencing more regular exposure to the sun. This means that seniors are also experiencing a greater number of sunburns over the course of a lifetime, which has increased the threat of melanoma or other kinds of serious and even potentially fatal skin cancers. 

The Facts

According to one source, there are more than 8000 deaths from melanoma in the United States every year. There may be a few reasons for the uptick in this number, especially among seniors. Many seniors enjoyed outdoor activities well before sunblock was an item you wouldn’t leave home without. According to Senior Helpers, this may be one reason that seniors are starting to see more skin cancer diagnoses today.  Frequent sunburning over the course of a lifetime increases one’s chances of developing melanoma so for those who’ve spent more than a few hours sunbathing without protection, there may be cause for concern.

The same is true for those who have used tanning beds frequently in the past. Though the artificial tanning device arrived in the U.S. in 1978, it was unregulated until 1988. Regulations were once again updated in 1999, suggesting that there have been genuine safety concerns over the use of tanning beds in the past.  For those seniors who have used these devices regularly, especially prior to current regulations, there may be a heightened risk of developing melanoma. 

Detection

One of the biggest challenges relating to skin cancer is early detection. This is often the key to successful treatment. For seniors though, detection can be more difficult. As the skin loses its elasticity, normal wrinkles and age spots can obscure more threatening blemishes. Though self-inspection is an important part of detecting skin cancer, you should start scheduling regular visits with a dermatologist as you age, especially if you’ve experienced an excess of sunburning in the past. 

Prevention

The most important thing you can do to prevent skin cancer is to take sensible steps to protect yourself from the sun. According to Compassionate Care, all seniors should be aware of the risks related to too much sun exposure as well as the readily available options we have for protection. First and foremost, take steps to limit your exposure. Senior Helpers tells that we can accumulate our daily recommended dose of Vitamin D from just 15 minutes of sunlight.

Sunblock is also a must when you’re outdoors. This is true not just when you’re at the beach or lounging in your yard but really for any occasion where you expect to be outside for more than 15 minutes at a time. 

Compassionate Care also points out that some medications may increase your sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays. Consult your physician to find out if this is the case and, if so, what steps you can take to counteract the effect. 

And if you have a history of sunburning or frequenting tanning salons, regularly scheduled dermatology appointments are a must.


TAGS: sun and skin cancer