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Skin Cancer in the Elderly

Skin cancer is on the rise among older adults, according to the American Cancer Society. More adults over age 55 than ever before are being diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Experts think that this may be due to the increased use of tanning beds among older generations, or it may even be due to an increased awareness and detection of skin cancer, which means that more cases are being caught.

July is UV Safety Month. Are you informed about the warning signs of skin cancer in the elderly? Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer (affecting more than two million Americans each year), but fortunately, it is also the easiest to cure. The key is finding it and treating it early. Here’s what you should watch for:

The warning signs of skin cancer:

  • A skin growth that noticeably increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored
  • A mole, birthmark, or any brown spot that:
    • Changes color
    • Increases in size
    • Changes in texture
    • Has an irregular outline
    • Is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser
    • Appears after age 21
  • A spot that itches, hurts, crusts, scabs, erodes or bleeds continually
  • An open sore that doesn’t heal within three weeks.

What to do if you’re suspicious of a spot:

Make an appointment with a physician right away. Mentioning that you’re concerned about a skin spot can sometimes help you get an earlier appointment. Don’t delay or hope it will go away: many skin cancers are very simple to treat if caught early. But if skin cancers are allowed to progress, they can result in extensive treatment, disfigurement, and even death.

For more information about skin cancer symptoms, visit the Mayo Clinic’s page.