I’m over 65, do I still need to protect myself from the sun?

Jul 14, 2014 / Geriatrics / Seniors

For years most of us have been told to take precautions when out in the sun to avoid skin damage as we get older – but what if we are already a senior – do we still have to worry?

The truth is, protecting yourself from the sun is even more important as you get older. Skin becomes more delicate and vulnerable as we age; and older skin is less able to protect itself from damage. Plus some prescription medications which many seniors take can make you more sensitive to the effects of the sun.

One of the biggest dangers of too much sun (besides wrinkles and brown spots) are actinic keratoses. These scaly growths and lesions can turn into skin cancer if left untreated. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and the most important reason to protect yourself from getting too much sun. During an exam or physical, always point out any new or changing moles or spots on your skin to your medical provider, including areas that aren’t typically exposed to sunlight – there’s a chance they could be skin cancer.

Here’s some tips to help you stay safe in the sun:

When outdoors, use sunscreen. As we age, the outer layer of our skin becomes thinner and more translucent, and more susceptible to sun damage. Use an SPF 30 sunscreen if you are going to be outdoors more than a few minutes, and reapply approximately every two hours or as instructed by the manufacturer.

Don’t try to tan. Many of us grew up in an age when tans were considered healthy – but clearly they are not. Dark tans and sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer, and need to be avoided.

Use a moisturizer. Older skin is more prone to dryness. Too much sun can make this problem worse. Always keep your skin moist to help protect it.

Seek shade. A sun shade or umbrella can keep you cooler and offers great sun protection. A wide-brimmed hat is also a great way to avoid the sun’s rays.

Remember, getting older doesn’t have to mean staying inside. You can still enjoy the outdoors as much as you want as long as you protect yourself from the sun.

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