Skin Cancer: Each year the month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in America but it is also one of the most preventable cancers. While much of the damage that your parent’s skin has received cannot be erased, you can help your parent prevent any further damage by taking the proper precautions when your parent is going to be spending day or even just a few hours outside. The warmer weather definitely makes everyone want to get out in the sunshine and soak it all in, but you can help your parent soak it all in safely.
Stay in the Shade
If your parent will be joining a large outdoor gathering such as a picnic or barbecue this spring or summer, make sure she has the shade she needs to stay out of the sun as much as possible. While not 100% protective, just sitting in the shade instead of the direct sun will prevent many UVB rays from reaching her skin. Ask your senior care provider to help set up shady sitting areas around the yard or at the park so your parent can easily find a place to enjoy the fresh air safely.
Whether it’s a bright sunny day or a cloudy day, your parent should put on sunscreen if she’s going to spend any time during the day in the direct sun. There are numerous sunscreens on the market, so help your parent find one that she likes and has an SPF of at least 30 (which means, if applied properly, she can stay in the sun 30 times longer than she could without sunscreen). Applying sunscreen inaccurately is the most common reason it doesn’t work. Make sure your parent covers all exposed areas of her skin and applies the sunscreen often enough to keep it replenished, especially if she is swimming or sweating. Having a senior care provider or another person apply the sunscreen to areas your parent cannot reach or see will help her make sure every inch is covered.
Skin that is covered with clothes is the most protected skin from the harmful sun’s rays. A wide-brimmed hat (at least 3 inches) will protect your parent’s face, neck, and head from the sun. Long sleeves and long pants will protect her arms and legs. The next time you’re out clothes shopping, consider purchasing some clothes specifically made to protect a person from the sun. Many new fabrics offer high-tech protection and breathability.
Skin Cancer: Avoid Windows
While windows do provide protection against UVB rays, they do let in UVA rays, which can damage the skin. So, while it may not be something your parent will think about, if she’s going to be on a long car ride or bus ride where she’s sitting in the sun, she should apply sunscreen for that trip as well.
Taking these steps will help protect your parent from developing skin cancer but it is still wise for her to examine her skin regularly for any new or irregular moles that may have developed due to old habits. The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat.