Summer is here! For many, the warm weather and longer days mean more time spent outdoors – even in the wake of coronavirus.
But while we all enjoy sitting on the porch with a glass of iced tea or taking a trip to the shore, too much time in the sun can be harmful. Especially for seniors.
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. And this may raise their risk of getting skin cancer.
If you’re aged 65 or older and plan on spending some time outdoors this summer, it’s vital that you take care to protect your skin.
We’ve put together a handy guide on defending yourself from the sun’s harmful rays to help keep you safe. Keep reading to learn more.
Skin Cancer Risk in Older Adults
Melanoma is often referred to as “the silent killer.” You can feel fine while you have it. You may not see any visible skin lesions or abnormalities, even as it continues to spread, invading lymph nodes and other body systems. By time you find out what’s happening, it could be too late.
That’s why it’s vital to take precautions to protect yourself from the sun. This is true for everyone, but especially older adults.
Why? Because most cases of skin cancer are found in people aged 65 and older. And as healthy adults in the United States continue to live longer and longer lives, it is essential that skin health in the aging population takes a front seat.
But besides staying in the house all the time, what can you do to protect yourself? These everyday habits can help keep your skin healthy, lower the risk of sunburn, and lower the overall risk of getting skin cancer:
How to Stay Safe
- Take Precautions (Even on Cloudy Days). It’s easy to have a false sense of security under a cloud-filled sky – but it is possible to get a sunburn, even on overcast days. In fact, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through clouds and damage your skin. Make sure you always use sunscreen and wear protective clothing (like sunglasses and a hat), even on the grayest of days!
- Remember That Darker Skin Won’t Protect You. One of the oldest summertime myths is that people with darker skin don’t have to worry about the sun. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Although the melanin in darker skin does offer some natural protection against UV radiation, it only safeguards to a certain extent. People with darker skin can still get sunburned and develop skin cancer.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Many people believe that the only time they need to worry about skin damage is when they’re outdoors, in direct sunlight. This is not the case. UV rays can reach you when you’re riding inside a car, lounging under a shady tree, or even sitting beside a window in your home. If you’re exposed to sunlight – even if it’s not direct – take precautions to protect your skin.
- Use the Appropriate SPF. According to experts, most people either don’t use enough sunscreen or don’t use a strong enough SPF. When choosing your sunscreen, remember that the rating indicates the proportion of UVB rays that are blocked – the higher the number, the more protection it offers. Apply a thick coating of lotion and reapply often for the best defense.
- Limit Your Time Outdoors. During the summer especially, the best thing you can do for your skin is to limit time outdoors. If possible, try to avoid going outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. If you do need to go outside for any reason, try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
In addition to the above tips, it’s important to examine your body for signs of sun damage or skin cancer on a regular basis. Most skin cancers, when caught early, can be easily cured. If you see a spot on the skin that is changing in size, shape, or color during a period of 1 month to 1 or 2 years, contact your healthcare provider immediately for further guidance!