Preventing Skin Cancer As You Get Older

January 20, 2022

The statistics can be frightening. Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. Researchers say it’s due to a variety of factors, ranging from our statistically fairer-skinned population to the country’s location close to the equator.

Two out of three Australians develop skin cancer by the time they reach their 70th birthday, with the disease claiming the lives of 2,000 people each year. Men are at a higher risk level than women.

Preventing Skin Cancer

Many seniors believe skin damage that leads to cancer occurs in childhood, so there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it now. The reality is that, while 25% of your total sun exposure happens in your first 18 years, the lifestyle choices you make in your later years can decrease your likelihood of getting the disease. That’s why learning more about skin cancer and how you can prevent it is essential.

Is There More Than One Type of Skin Cancer?

Sun exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. According to the Cancer Council, there are three primary types. Melanoma is the least common but the deadliest. Basil cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed more often but are easier to treat.

The signs and symptoms of skin cancer can include:

  • A new mole, freckle, or spot on the skin
  • A mole that changes shape, colour, or thickness
  • Small lumps on the skin that are red or pearly white
  • A non-healing sore that feels crusty to the touch

Early detection is the key to treating any type of skin cancer, so it’s important to visit your GP or a skin cancer clinic if you notice any of the signs listed above.

Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

The team at SunSmart has come up with an easy six-point program for protecting yourself or an ageing loved one against skin cancer:

  • Slip on clothing: It acts as a barrier between the sun and your skin. Some clothing even has ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) built in - adding an extra layer of protection.
  • Slop on sunscreen: You’ll find sunscreen widely available in a variety of formats and protection levels. Learn more about what type of sunscreen you need and how to apply it here.
  • Slap on a hat: Because skin cancer often occurs on the face, especially the ears and nose, wearing a hat is another good way to prevent the disease. Choose one with a tight weave and a brim wide enough to shade your face, ears and neck.
  • Seek shade: Stay in the shade, whether it’s the shelter of a tree or the roof of your verandah, during peak sun hours of the day. If you choose to participate in an outdoor activity, such as a trip to the beach, take shade with you in the form of an umbrella, and avoid the suns peak hours of possible damage, between 10am to 4pm if possible, with around 12pm to 2pm being the most damaging time to be outdoors.
  • Slide on sunglasses: People often underestimate just how beneficial a good pair of sunnies can be. Not only can they protect your eyes from sun damage, but they might also be able to reduce your risk for cataracts. Select a pair that fits tightly and wraps around the side of your face. When purchaseing a new pair, make sure they are marked with an eye protection factor (EPF) of 9 or 10, or labeled UV 400. Fashion or decorative sunglasses may not provide the protect you need.
  • At the snow: If your plans include a trip to a snowy destination, don’t think you are safe from the sun. The glare off the snow can be just as damaging, or worse. Follow the steps listed above to protect your skin, paying particular attention to your face – often the most exposed part of the body in the cold.

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