Community Blog

The Scoop on Seniors and Skin Cancer

By Debbie Humphrey

One of my colleagues and I were talking one day, and she told me about her family history with skin cancer. Back in the day of landlines, her father had worked very hard for 30 years as a telephone lineman for a major communications company. He had so many instances of skin cancer on his face and his back, that it seemed each time he went for a check-up, he returned with appointments to have new melanomas removed and skin grafts put in place to repair the surgical wounds. The same thing happened with her uncle, her Dad’s younger brother. He was a postal carrier for decades, and he, too, had multiple instances of this potentially fatal disease, and he continues to have areas of skin cancer appear regularly to this day. Most recently, a large cancerous tumor appeared in his ear canal reducing his ability to hear.

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States, and reports indicate men are diagnosed more frequently than women. However, the mortality rate in women is higher than men. It is estimated that as many as 700,000-1,000,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year, and nearly half of our nation’s population will be diagnosed with skin cancer before age 65.

There are two types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 600 people die of melanoma in Florida every year. Since 1975, the death rate among Florida residents over the age of 50 has nearly doubled.

These statistics may not surprise you since we do, indeed, live in the Sunshine State. However, they should cause you to take notice and precautions when it comes to outdoor chores and activities.

Florida has the second highest rate of skin cancer cases, second only to California, and just ahead of Texas. As the age of patients diagnosed with skin cancer is becoming younger all the time, seniors with skin cancer make up the largest population with the disease.

Additionally, as much as 75% of sun damage to the skin occurs before we reach the age of 20, which is associated with a higher risk of developing skin cancer. That means, we not only need to protect ourselves, we must be extremely diligent to keep our children and grands protected from harmful UV rays, too.

Let’s take a look at what we can do to be more proactive about preventing the occurrence of this often fatal disease.

Do Not Burn. Skin cancer is believed to result from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Sunburns, especially for children, significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds. UV radiation causes skin cancer and wrinkling.

Apply Sunscreen Generously. Cover exposed skin with plenty of sunscreen approximately 15 minutes before outdoor activities. The sunscreen you choose should have a Sun Protection Factor [SPF] of no lower than 30, and be considered broad spectrum to protect from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

Wear Protective Clothing. It may be hot, but try to cover your arms and legs with loose-fitting clothing that includes long sleeves and pants. Also, whenever possible wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.

Be Extra Cautious Near Water and Sand. These elements are reflective and can increase your chance of sunburn.

Know the UV Index. This is important information when planning outdoor activities, so you can be prepared to prevent overexposure to harmful rays.

Get Vitamin D Safely. Do not rationalize being in the sun as getting a dose of Vitamin D. It is much better for you to eat healthy foods with Vitamin D, as well as take dietary supplements to get your recommended daily allowance.

All of the stats stated above are disturbing, considering the amount of time we residents spend enhancing our lives outdoors at the beach, by the pool, playing golf, boating, gardening, and numerous other fun activities we enjoy with family and friends in Florida. It is highly recommended that you have regular skin examinations, especially if you were once a “sun worshiper” or participated in outdoor sports and activities in your youth. Should you notice a mole that has changed in shape and color, or you have a particular concern about the likelihood you may have skin cancer, consult with your physician or a licensed dermatologist. The above-noted precautions and available treatments could save your life!

If I can help by providing a perfectly-matched caregiver to assist with personal care to make sure no areas of skin are left unchecked; or to provide transportation assistance to/from doctor appointments and prescribed treatments; feel free to reach out. My team and I are happy to help, and my offer stands for a FREE in-home consultation.

Home Helpers® proudly serves male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more about the many services offered through Home Helpers® We are Making Life Easier℠ 727.972.2539

Source: Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery