It’s May, and that means warm weather and enjoying more time outside. May is also Melanoma and Skin Cancer awareness month, and as we begin our journeys back outside, eternalHealth wants to give you the tools to keep you and your family safe this summer!
Sun safety is important for everyone, but it is especially important for seniors. As we age, our skin becomes more delicate and vulnerable to sun damage, which can lead to skin cancer and other health problems. Skin Cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, with over 5 million cases diagnosed each year. Fortunately, with proper precautions, it is also one of the most preventable cancers. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes most cases of skin cancer, specifically melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun in as little as 15 minutes, and even when it is cloudy and cool, you still need protection from UV rays.
One of the best ways to manage skin cancer is to avoid It all together. This doesn’t mean avoiding time outside, because physical activity, getting your daily dose of vitamin D, and taking a break during a busy day are all great for overall health, but when you do go outside, it’s important to make sure you are protecting your skin as much as possible.
Being outside and getting some physical activity, your daily dose of Vitamin D, and getting fresh air are great for your overall health, but it is important to make sure you are protecting your skin as much as possible. Here are some easy ways to lower your risk of developing skin cancer;
- Apply sunscreen frequently – Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, at least 15 SPF, and reapply frequently. It is best to reapply every 2 hours that you are outside. Make sure you are covering all of the exposed skin.
- Limit your time in the sun – UV rays are strongest between 10 AM and 4PM, so if you find yourself outside during this time, take a break and find a shady spot to relax.
- Cover your skin – When possible, wear clothes that cover exposed parts of your skin like shoulders, arms and legs. Additionally, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat will keep your eyes and face protected.
Don’t forget, with an eternalHealth Medicare Advantage Plan you could receive an allowance for OTC products such as sunscreen and after sun healing ointment, as well as other important summer essentials.
What To Look For
Taking steps to avoid skin cancer all together is one of the most important things you can do to protect your skin, but it’s important to know your risk factors and what to look for in case you do notice something. Skin cancer is one of the most curable cancers if diagnosed and treated early enough, so it is important to know what to look for. Self-exam skin checks can save lives, and it is recommended to check once a month for any changes. Here are some easy instructions on what to look for during a thorough skin check:
Anything new, changing, or unusual on your skin should be assessed by a dermatologist right away to rule out skin cancer. These could include:
- A growth: Anything that appears to increase in size and appears transparent, brown, tan, pearlescent, or black.
- A mole: a birthmark or spot that increases in size, thickness texture, or is bigger than the eraser of a pencil.
- A spot: One that continues to itch, hurt, scab, or bleed.
- An open sore: that does not heal within three weeks.
Anybody is at risk of developing skin cancer, so it is important to make sure to check frequently for any new or changing marks on the body. As with most cancers, there are risk factors that may put someone at higher risk than others. If you have one or more of the following risk factors, consider checking more frequently and having a dermatologist create a “mole map” to detect problem areas as soon as possible:
- A lighter natural skin color
- Skin that easily burns, freckles, or becomes painful in the sun
- Blue or green eyes
- Red or Blond Hair
- Certain types and/or a large number of moles.
- A family or personal history of skin cancer
- Older Age
UV Protection as We Age
Studies show that less than half of older American’s don’t protect their skin when they are planning to be outside for an hour or more, and that most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65. As our lifespans become longer and longer, it is important to keep up with our skin health. One of the most common factors of developing skin cancer is years of sun damage from ultraviolet light. Having just five sunburns over your lifetime more than doubles one’s chances of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer, Melanoma. Healthcare providers can also play a crucial role in promoting skin cancer awareness by educating patients about the importance of sun safety and performing skin cancer screenings. It is a good idea to utilize your annual wellness visit and have your doctor explain your risks as well as create a personalized preventive plan to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Summer is just around the corner, and now is the perfect time to start thinking about protecting your skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. Skin cancer is a serious disease that can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes and early detection. Protecting yourself from UV radiation and regularly checking your skin can help reduce the risk of developing skin cancer and ensure that it is caught early when it is most treatable.
To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans, visit eternalHealth.com or call 1 (800) 831-9218 (TTY 711).