Each year, more than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, and the majority is ages 65 and older. Less than half of older adults, however, protect their skin from the sun.
With people living longer than ever, it’s important to take proper care of your skin into your 60s and beyond.
Skin cancer is the most common type of diagnosis in the United States; one in five adults develops skin cancer by age 70. More than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour, but melanoma’s five-year survival rate is 99 percent when detected early.
Over time, skin loses fat and water, becoming thinner and allowing more UV light in. That breaks down elastic tissue, leading to wrinkles and marks. Exposure to UV light also causes sunburns. The more you get sunburned, the greater your risk of developing melanomas and other skin cancers.
Skin protection begins with timing. UV light is harshest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s especially important to protect your skin during these times.
Using an SPF 15 or high-spectrum sunscreen drastically reduces your chances of getting a sunburn. Many people are averse to the astringent smell or dense application of traditional sunscreens, but there are many options that smell nice and can even be sprayed on.
If you’re engaging in lengthy outdoor activities, try to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
Covering up may sound counterintuitive for the summer months, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to prevent sun damage to your skin. You don’t need to pull out jackets and turtlenecks, but long-sleeve shirts and pants made from linen or lightweight cotton can protect you while also wicking sweat from your body.
Similar to clothing, hats provide much-needed protection to the head and face. Wide-brimmed hats can help protect your eyes as well.
It may be impossible in some settings, but older adults should try to remain in the shade as much as possible. If you’re going to the beach, bring an umbrella. If you’re going to watch a loved one’s sporting event, bring a tailgating tent or sit in a wooded area.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways for seniors to stay healthy, and you shouldn’t let the dangers of sun exposure prevent you from seeking the many benefits of outdoor activities.
Remaining active outdoors discourages isolation while improving mental and physical health. Remember: You are your skin’s best advocate. Precautions like sunscreen, protective clothing, and shade will protect your skin and your long-term health.