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Senior Life: Tips for Healthy Living - Sun Protection & Skin Cancer Awareness


As summer quickly approaches, it is important to remember the things you can do to keep yourself safe while enjoying some fun in the sun!  While exposure to sunlight provides many health benefits, including increased vitamin D and serotonin levels, it can also cause both 

short and long term damage to the skin. 

Utilizing proper sun protection and skin cancer screening services can help to ensure you are able to enjoy outdoor activities without causing harm to your skin.

Dangers of Sun Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation. 

Radiation is released from the sun in the form of UV light. This UV light is classified into three types by wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While UVC light is blocked by the Earth’s ozone layer, UVB and UVA light pass through it.

UVA light penetrates deeply into the skin 

causing leathering of the skin and wrinkles. UVB radiation is responsible for causing 

sunburns.  However, both UVA and UVB 

radiation contribute to the development of skin cancer. These rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. This is why it is so important to protect yourself against exposure to these harmful rays while outdoors.

Skin Cancer. 

Unfortunately, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States with over 5 million cases diagnosed annually. 

• 85% of melanoma skin cancers are associated   

   with exposure to UV radiation. Melanoma is 

   a serious form of skin cancer that is more 

   likely to grow and spread than other types 

   of skin cancer.

• 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are 

   associated with exposure to UV radiation.

There are several changes that happen to the skin as we age. The skin produces less collagen and becomes drier, making it more sensitive to the environment. The immune system also weakens over time, which reduces the body’s ability to repair sun damage. These age-related changes show that it is especially important for seniors to protect themselves from the sun. In addition, there are several other factors that could put you at increased risk for developing skin cancer due to exposure to UV radiation from the sun. 

Some skin cancer risk factors include:

• Unprotected UV exposure from the sun or     

  indoor tanning beds

• Weakened immune system due to a medical 

   condition or medications

• A lot of moles, abnormal moles, and 

  large moles 

• Fair skin, light eyes, and light or red hair 

• History of skin cancer including melanoma or 

   nonmelanoma skin cancers 

• Family history of skin cancer 

Thankfully, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. It is important to know the warning signs of skin cancer because it is highly curable when caught early. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using the “ABCDEs” of melanoma as a tool to help you recognize the early signs of melanoma.

Protect Yourself 

Even though the sun certainly can cause 

damaging effects, there are thankfully many ways we can keep our skin protected while still enjoying outdoor activities this summer. 

Keep the following tips in mind when you are preparing for some fun in the sun over the next few months.

5 S’s of Sun Safety. 

1. Slip on sun protective clothing to protect the skin, such as a long-sleeved shirt

2. Slop on SPF 30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen

    • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of the sun's

       harmful rays

    • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to  

      dry skin at least 20 minutes before sun      

      exposure begins

    • Reapply every two hours or after excessive 

      sweating or swimming

3. Slap on a hat that fully covers the face, nose, neck, and ears

    • The wider the brim the better

4. Seek shade or shelter during peak sun 

exposure times, typically from 10 AM to 4 PM

5. Slide on UV-protective sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays

If you have questions, stop by your local Lewis Drug today and talk to one of our pharmacy experts!

Brooke Nibbelink, PharmD
Lewis Drug and 
South Dakota State University
College of Pharmacy


Cancer Council Australia. “Be Sun Smart”. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sun Safety”. April 2020. 

Nevada Skin Cancer Coalition. “Learn the 5 S’s to Be Sun Smart This Summer”. May 2018. https://nevadacancercoalition.... 

The Skin Cancer Foundation. “May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month”. May 2021. 

The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Melanoma Risk Factors”. May 2020. 

Heritage Senior Communities. “5 Sunscreen Tips for Older Adults”. June 2019. https://www.heritageseniorcomm... 

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