Know the Signs of Skin Cancer and How to Protect Senior Skin

Learn the signs of skin cancer and practical steps to take in order to protect seniors from excessive sun exposure.

Learn the signs of skin cancer and practical steps to take in order to protect seniors from excessive sun exposure.

With warmer weather on the horizon, we can look forward to spending more time outside – enjoying cookouts, walks in the neighborhood park, working in the garden, or taking a trip to the lake. More time outdoors means it’s also important to take steps to protect skin from sun exposure – a habit that should be practiced year-round. Older adult skin can be especially susceptible to the sun’s damaging UV rays, and coupled with a lifetime of sun exposure, it’s important to know the signs of skin cancer.

Sun Protection

The first step in life-long skin health is to make protection a daily habit. Even in the winter, the sun’s rays can damage the skin. Reducing sun exposure and taking steps to reduce the risk of sunburn helps lower a person’s risk for skin cancer. If a senior will be spending time outdoors, take the following precautions:

  • Stay in the shade. Find a location under tress or a covered patio where the senior can remain out of the direct sun. This will also help prevent overheating.
  • Use sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. For maximum effectiveness, pay attention to expiration dates on the bottles. When applying, don’t forget to get the back of the neck and the tops of ears.
  • Wear a hat. A wide-brimmed hat will help protect a senior’s neck, face and ears when shade is not accessible.
  • Wear clothing that covers. Wearing long sleeves and pants that reach the ankles will help reduce sun exposure. Look for fabrics that wick moisture, which will help keep seniors cool.

Skin Self-Exam

In addition to taking steps to protect skin from daily sun exposure, it’s important to check for signs of skin cancer monthly in order to spot any changes that may need to be investigated by a dermatologist. By engaging in regular self-exams, people are more likely to notice subtle changes in the appearance of moles or freckles. The American Cancer Society recommends conducting a self-exam in a well-lit room with a full-length mirror. If a senior has trouble seeing parts of his/her body, a trusted family member can assist.

  • Step 1: Face the Mirror

Examine the face, neck, chest, ears and stomach. Women should also check the skin under their breasts. Check the underarm area, the sides of the arms, the tops and palms of the hands, as well as the skin between the fingers and the fingernails.

  • Step 2: Sit Down

Check the tops of the thighs, the shins, the feet, the skin between the toes and the toenails. Using a hand mirror, examine the bottoms of the feet, the calves and the backs of the thighs. Check the buttocks, genital area, upper and lower back, the ears, and back of the neck. Using a comb, part hair so that the scalp can be examined.

  • Step 3: Know What to Look For

With regular exams, it’s easier to spot changes in the skin. In particular be sure to note any of the following:

  • A sore that is slow to heal and/or that bleeds
  • Rough, red, scaly patch of skin which may bleed or crust
  • A wart-like growth
  • New, expanding, or changing bump, spot or growth on the skin
  • A mole that is changing in size, color or shape (irregular boarders or areas of different colors)

A Trusted Care Partner

The trusted care team at Visiting Care Giving Services can help prioritize skin health by providing accompanied transportation to the doctor or dermatologist so that an older adult can report any changes in the condition of his/her skin. In addition, our caregivers can also help make sure that older adults are protected from sun exposure when venturing out for lunch with a friend, attending a family picnic, or any other activities that involve being outdoors.

To learn more about the many ways in which our St. Charles home care services can help seniors remain healthy and independent, reach out to us anytime at (636) 493-9058 to schedule a free in-home consultation. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.