Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. One million people aged 65 and older develop skin cancer per year, and the older age group has the highest death rate from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why this is the case; older adults have had a lifetime of sun exposure, and a large majority of those sun-soaking years predated widespread use of sunscreen. Even if you are a baby boomer, it’s likely you weren’t encouraged to use sunscreen until you were well into your 30’s and 40’s – after decades of sun damage had already occurred. As a result, the number of boomers with skin cancer is on the rise. According to Medical News Today, people in their 60’s and 70’s are five times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
I think it’s safe to say that we have all heard a ton of information over the past few years about the importance of protecting our skin from cancer with high SPF sunscreen applications, hats, long sleeve shirts, and avoiding the sun between 10-4 when it is most intense, but what about those of us who have already been exposed to the damaging rays of the sun? What should we do, and how should we manage so that we don’t become one of the statistics mentioned above?
Get to a dermatologist today!
Make an appointment to see a dermatologist. The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are men over the age of 50 – more than likely because some men believe dermatologists are for women and neglect to go. Regardless of your gender, a visit to a dermatologist for a full body check will immediately identify any suspicious moles, sores, or skin growths. Making annual appointments will help keep track of your moles and skin growths to identify any alarming changes.
Take a look in the mirror!
After you’ve seen a dermatologist, be your own best skin advocate by doing a monthly skin check of your entire body. Use a mirror to check your back. If you are unable to do so, have your partner or a family member help you. Skin cancers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be small, large, shiny, waxy, scaly, rough, firm, red, crusty, bleeding, or smooth. They can be perfectly round or have irregular borders. They can be tan, brown, black, white, red, or even blue. With today’s technology, you can take digital photos of moles and compare month to month to check for changes in size or color. If you notice any changes or new growths, make an appointment to have your dermatologist check it out.
Regardless of what type of skin cancer you might have or develop, skincancer.org reports a 99 percent survival rate when caught early. Therefore, the best way to manage or prevent becoming a statistic is to get in front of a mirror on a regular basis and make annual appointments with a dermatologist! Who knew a little bit of vanity might save your life?
Research & Community Education