November 14, 2018

It’s never too late to stay protected from the sun

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 has been an outdoorsman for as long as he can remember and was diagnosed with advanced basal cell carcinoma at age 64.

“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,” John said.

After ignoring a small lesion on his nose for years, John could no longer ignore the pain and went to see a dermatologist. The cancer had spread into the bone of his nose, upper lip and gums, and his doctor said he was not eligible for surgery or radiation because of the location and depth of the cancer. John learned for his particular case he was eligible for an oral pill, Erivedge (vismodegib), which is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with basal cell carcinoma that has spread to other parts of the body and cannot be treated with surgery or radiation. John is still taking the medicine today.

It’s never too late to protect yourself from the sun. Dr. Keith LeBlanc Jr. of The Skin Surgery Centre recommends these 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.8

For more information on skin cancer, visit gene.com/skin-health.

— Family Features

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