Summer months usually mean more time spent outdoors. For older adults, exposure to sunlight – and the Vitamin D that it provides – can benefit them
with stronger bones, improved mood, improved sleep quality, and cardiovascular health. But too much of a good thing can lead to skin cancer, one of the most common cancers in the United States.
“Many older adults, and their caregivers, don’t think they need to worry about skin cancer, but they should,” says Dr. David Richman, InnovAge medical director in Colorado
. “Over the years, I’ve heard patients say they only use sunscreen on sunny days. But ultraviolet (UV) rays can still be harmful when it’s cloudy.”
In fact, research shows that most cases of skin cancer are found in people over the age of 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, less than half of U.S. older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for more than an hour on a warm, sunny day.
Here are five steps to limit your exposure when spending time outside:
- Use sunscreen (the higher the SPF, the more it blocks UV rays).
- Stay in the shade.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear clothing to the ankles.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt.
To get the Vitamin D benefits of sunlight, try to get a few minutes of midday sun each day. Vitamin D can also be found in foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, and foods fortified with the vitamin (like cow’s milk or orange juice). Supplements can also help. Be sure so check with your healthcare provider for advice that works for you and remember to be safe in the sun this summer!