Seniors and skin cancer

Each year in the United States, more than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. According to the CDC, most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age.

May is National Skin Care Prevention and Detection Month, and the need to promote life-long skin health is more critical than ever. No matter your age, gender or race, everyone needs to use protection against the sun.

Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and reduce your risk of skin cancer by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30+. Sunscreen has been proven to reduce the risk of most skin cancers, so it’s important to use a good sunscreen daily – even in the winter months.

In a study, CDC researchers found that only about 15 percent of older adults and 8 percent of sun-sensitive older adults regularly used sun protection. Limit your outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.

Sun exposure adds up over the years and seniors are at a greater risk for skin cancer than any other age group. Even if you have been diligent about skin protection, it is still important to know the signs of skin cancer. There are many different kinds of skin cancers, all with different characteristics.

When checking for signs of melanoma, follow the ABCDE rule:

  • Asymmetry: An uneven mole or birthmark
  • Border: A mark on the skin with an uneven or blurred border 
  • Color: Varying color in a single mark, including patches of pink or white
  • Diameter: A spot wider than a quarter of an inch across
  • Evolving: The mark changes in size, shape, or color

Regular skin checks by your doctor is key to early detection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin monthly, and tell your doctor if you see any new, unusual, or changing moles or skin growths.