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By Cassandra Franklin
The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin cancer is one of the most common diseases for seniors, affecting more than 50 percent of them in the US. As we age, the skin undergoes changes that weaken the body’s defense against sun damage; reduced immune systems, thinner skin, and poor healing capacity can contribute to the increased risk of skin cancer. While it is not known exactly how much sun damage triggers skin cancer, studies show that even one bad burn in older age could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. As such, seniors need to take measures to protect the skin against harmful UV rays not only to reduce their risk of skin cancer but also to promote healthier, better-looking skin.
Know when to go outside
Proper UV protection starts with timing; UV rays are usually at the highest intensity between 10 am and 4 pm. If you can, plan your adventures for early morning or late afternoon when it’s not too hot outside. If you must go outside during these hours, seek shade from direct sun and wear more protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, UV-filtering sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. You also need to wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15; go for SPF 30 or higher if you will be out in the sun for an extended period, for instance, if you plan to spend your day golfing or soaking in the sun on the beach.
Follow a proper diet
What you eat has a direct impact on how good your skin is at UV protection. A number of efficient micronutrients can contribute to the prevention of UV damage in the skin. For example, citrus fruits contain limonene, a compound that drastically reduces the risk of skin cancer. Salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and oils that guard against sunburn and DNA changes that may lead to cancer. Strawberries work double-duty; they have a rich vitamin C content that prevents the formation of cancer and tannins that help relieve pain from a sunburn. Other foods that can protect against sun damage include carrots, green tea, pomegranates, tomatoes, and spinach. While these foods are no substitute for sunblock, they can add inner protection against sunburn at the cellular level.
It’s never too late to start taking better care of your skin. By limiting unprotected sun exposure and following a proper diet, you can reduce the risk of skin cancer and at the same time reduce the appearance of wrinkles, sagging, blotchiness, and discoloration.