Fun in the sun isn’t just for youngsters. The benefits of spending time outside and in nature has no age limit. That being said, seniors need to be particularly careful when exposed to the sun, especially for longer periods of time.
According to the CDC, “less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more on a warm, sunny day.” This can be very detrimental for both long term and short term health, and may explain why skin cancer is most commonly found in people 65 years old and up. Here are a few tips that will help you and your loved ones avoid sun damaged skin and how to detect early signs of skin cancer.
Just like you check the weather before leaving your home, during the summer months, it’s important to add checking the UV index to your daily routine. The UV index is a daily forecast that predicts the intensity of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It ranges from low, which is rated as a two or less, to extreme, which is predicted at 11 or more. Checking the UV index in your area can give you a great idea of how careful you should be when spending time outdoors.
No matter what the UV index is for the day, you may want to consider staying indoors, or at least in the shade, between 10am and 4pm. According to the FDA, UV light is at its most dangerous around noon, but it can be very intense during the surrounding hours as well. Knowledge is power, so do a quick internet search of your area’s UV index to avoid putting your skin and health at risk.
Having a checklist to ensure you’re practicing sun safety is super helpful! All you have to do is remember the five S’s, which are slip, slop, slap, slide and shade! Let’s break those down.
Slip on your favorite outdoor shirt to protect you from the rays. Have it cover as much of your skin as possible. Closer fabric weaves will yield better results and clothes with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) are even better!
Slop on that broad spectrum, water resistant 30+ SPF sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Make sure you’re reapplying at least every two hours once you’re out and about. While you’re at it, don’t forget to apply a lip balm with SPF.
Slap on a broad-brimmed hat when you’re headed out the door. Just make sure it has at least a 7.5 centimeter brim. Unlike baseball caps, broad brim hats protect your head, neck and ears from the sun! Much like clothing, the closer the fabric weave, the better the protection.
Slide on some sunglasses. You’ll not only look cool, you’ll also be shading your eyes from harmful UV light. Not all sunglasses are made with eye protection in mind, so double-check that yours are high-quality. You can do quality control by checking the label for a high EPF (Eye Protection Factor). A rating of nine or ten means your sunglasses are excellent.
The shade isn’t just a nice place to relax, it can help shield you from UV rays, so you don’t end up with sun damaged skin. That being said, remember that you should be practicing all five S’s at once to be truly protected.
Skin cancer often develops on skin that’s exposed to sunlight, although those with darker skin complexions should be checking their hands and feet as well for signs of carcinoma. If you notice a suspicious mole, freckle or spot on your skin, especially if it’s changed shape, color, or texture, you should definitely seek medical attention and make an appointment with a dermatologist.
There are four major types of skin cancer: basal cell, melanoma, nonmelanoma and squamous cell. Some early signs of skin cancer include moles, spots or freckles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders or color that’s not continuous. Each type of skin cancer can have different symptoms, so if you have any spots on your skin that are giving you pause, it’s best to just schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for a screening. Annual screenings are a great way to catch cancer early and give you peace of mind.
Seniors are tough. They’ve lived through a lot, but in a fight between skin and sun, the sun will always win. To reduce your risk of skin cancer, don’t forget to check the UV index before going out, adhere to the five S’s and regularly get screened by a dermatologist for peace of mind. Have a great summer!