(Family Features)–It’s a common myth that most sun damage happens before the age of 18, but does this mean sun damage becomes less of a threat as we get older? Although many think most sun damage happens at a young age, the majority of sun exposure actually occurs after the age of 40. However, it’s never too late to make a difference in your skin health.
In fact, between 40-50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once in their lives. Non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, is the most common form of skin cancer, and most often occurs in people over the age of 50. This rang true for John Gohmann, who was diagnosed with advanced basal cell carcinoma at age 64, and has been an outdoorsman for as long as he can remember.
“Being outside my whole life, playing a lot of golf and working on the railroad, I never used sunscreen and didn’t think about getting skin cancer,” Gohmann says. “I was shocked to learn not wearing sunscreen was so dangerous and that I could still be causing myself damage, even in my later years.”
It’s never too late to protect yourself from the sun. Dr. Keith LeBlanc Jr. of The Skin Surgery Centre recommends these preventative tips:
Have a Routine to Stay Protected: It’s important to stay protected from the sun year-round, even when it’s cloudy. Wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays and applying sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher can help limit exposure. Wear a hat to cover your head and clothes that cover your arms and legs, if possible. Seek shade when the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Know What to Look For: Basal cell carcinomas often appear on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. Most commonly, they appear as open sores that don’t heal, reddish patches or irritated areas, shiny or pink bumps and scar-like areas. It’s important to perform skin self-exams monthly and to see your doctor every year for a professional exam.
Understand Treatment Options: If diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, consult with your doctor to discuss treatment options that might be right for you. If caught early, surgically removing the affected area or applying a medicated cream may be all the treatment a patient needs. However, once the cancer spreads to other areas of the body, treatment becomes more complex and may involve the use of targeted therapies, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments.
As always, talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about sun damage.