Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. Every day, doctors diagnose over 9,500 people in America with skin cancer — more than the diagnoses for all other cancers combined.
No matter your age or skin tone, no one is immune to skin cancer. However, seniors are especially at risk for developing skin cancer. They’re also less likely to have a good prognosis after being diagnosed. Research has shown that 50 percent of skin cancer deaths occur in people over the age of 65. The negative effects of sunlight are cumulative, so by the time a person reaches old age they carry a lifetime of damage to their skin. This makes it especially important for seniors to practice diligent sun safety behaviors. Though regular doctor visits can help identify the warning signs, there are a few simple ways seniors can protect themselves before they even make an appointment.
Prevention Is The Best Cure
We’ve already discussed a few tips on how seniors can protect themselves from the sun. Sunscreen, shade cover, and limiting time in the sun are the most effective ways to cut down UV exposure. However, a person will inevitably get a little too much sun from time to time. Over the years, that exposure adds up. Seniors are more at risk for skin cancer than any other age group. This means that keeping an eye out for skin cancer signs is crucial. Even if you’ve been diligent about sun safety techniques.
Keep in mind that it is just as possible to get a sunburn in the winter as it is on a hot summer’s day. In fact, the reflective property of snow means that the sun’s rays can be even more powerful for areas with snowy winters.
Another major risk factor is the use of tanning beds. Emitting ten to fifteen times the sun’s peak UV output, tanning beds are linked to nearly half a million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year. If you have used a tanning bed in the past, you may be at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Know The Signs of Skin Cancer
Perhaps the most well-known type of skin cancer is melanoma. Though it accounts for only one percent of all cases, melanoma also accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma’s dangerous nature makes its infamy understandable. However, there are many different kinds of skin cancers, all with different characteristics. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are more common than melanoma. Though they are both very treatable, the treatments can be costly and disfiguring. Sometimes even these common and less-aggressive forms of skin cancer can be fatal. It’s important to keep an eye out for a variety of potential symptoms. If you notice warning signs on your skin, confer with a doctor.
When checking for signs of melanoma, the ABCDE rule is a great place to start:
- Asymmetry: An uneven mole or birthmark.
- Border: A mark on the skin with an uneven or blurred border.
- Color: Varying color in a single mark, including patches of pink or white.
- Diameter: A spot wider than a quarter of an inch across.
- Evolving: The mark changes in size, shape, or color.
For basal cell carcinomas, the signs are a little different. Patches of skin that look flat and pale like scar tissue can be a warning sign, as well as raised itchy reddish patches. It can also form small, pearly bumps on the skin or pink growths with raised edges. Open sores are also a symptom. Of course, finding a wound or sore that won’t heal is a good reason to go to the doctor whether you suspect it of being skin cancer or not. Lastly, squamous cell carcinomas can look like rough or scaly red patches, raised grows or bumps with a depression in the center, or wart-like growths.
Aside from these specific symptoms, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on any new or irregular marks on your skin. Redness or swelling, itching, tenderness, or any other abnormal symptoms may mean a doctor’s visit is in order.
Home Caregivers Provide Additional Protection
However, there is good news. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent. Though the number of melanoma cases is expected to rise by 2 percent this year, the survival rate is expected to decrease by 5.3 percent. However, skin cancer still presents many risks. Proper prevention and identification can mean the difference between life and death.
A home caregiver provides another set of eyes to help seniors monitor their skin. Because seniors tend to have more wrinkles and age spots than other demographics, identifying irregularities can be more difficult. And of course, it’s easier to have another person to check the skin on your back than trying to twist around yourself. As well as checking difficult-to-see patches of skin, home caregivers are also on hand to help seniors stay on top of sun safety guidelines. With that additional level of protection, seniors have a lot less to worry about when it comes to skin cancer.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.