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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Making Seniors Aware of Skin Cancer that Kills One American Per Hour is National Effort

Free skin screenings, new television ad targeting older men, Consumer Reports on best, worst sunscreens. Mostly putting focus on deadly melanoma skin cancer that most often hits seniors

Stitched area after melanoma removed from headMay 27, 2014 – Too many Americans take skin cancer too lightly. The reality is that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and one person dies from melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – every hour. Seniors should note that the risk of melanoma increases with age – the average age of diagnosis is 61.This is the time of year when skin cancer gets the most attention, since it exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the summer sun that is most often associated with the cause of skin cancers.

There is a flurry of activity by skin care advocates and others to kick-off the summer season with information on preventing skin cancers, especially from the sun and tanning booths, and early detection.

Drinkable Sunscreen? Don’t Swallow It!

American Academy of Dermatology Statement on Drinkable Sunscreen

Recently, there has been media coverage about “drinkable sunscreen” that claims to provide sun protection through the ingestion of water that allegedly has been infused with electromagnetic waves.

The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) wants to alert consumers that this drink should not be used as a replacement for sunscreen or sun-protective clothing.  There is currently no scientific evidence that this “drinkable sunscreen” product provides any protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

Sunscreen is the only form of sun protection that is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  Broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 has been scientifically proven to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun.

The Academy continues to recommends that you still seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing and wide-brimmed hat, and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  For more sun protection tips, visit  

The National Cancer Institute points out that skin cancer is more common where the sun is strong. For example, more people in Texas than Minnesota get skin cancer. Also, the sun is stronger at higher elevations, such as in the mountains. (See more statistics below.)

The Skin Cancer Foundation, that designated May as skin cancer month, says it is chiefly a lifestyle disease that is highly preventable. The organization urges seniors and others to “incorporate sun protection measures into their daily life.” And, the Foundation is helping with their Road to Healthy Skin Tour, presented by Rite Aid, a leading drugstore chain. It will launch its annual cross-country journey this month, bringing free skin cancer screenings to communities in 17 states and the District of Columbia. (Details about tour below.)

The American Academy of Dermatology says men older than 50 are at the highest risk of developing melanoma. Today the Academy launched “Lawn,” a public service advertisement (PSA) that encourages older men to check their skin for suspicious or changing spots. (More about TV spot below.)

Consumer Reports focuses their testing and rating experience on sun screens and also has an article in their July edition exposing some myths about sun screens. (More below.)

Consumer Reports Research Raises Questions About Sunscreen SPF Claims

Many provide excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays; Five common myths about sunscreen debunked

When it comes to sunscreen, SPF (sun protection factor) is the feature that influences consumers’ purchasing decision most.  In its tests of 20 sunscreens, Consumer Reports found two products – BullFrog WaterAmor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ and Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50 – that provided the SPF promised on the label.

The full report and Ratings of sunscreens can be found in the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and online at

Consumer Reports is recommending seven sunscreens from - Banana Boat, BullFrog, Coppertone, Equate (Walmart), Neutrogena, Up & Up (Target) and Well (Walgreens).

While not all of them met the SPF claimed on their labels, the recommended sunscreens all provided very good to excellent protection overall as well as against UVA and UVB rays individually.

Seven other sunscreens received only fair for protection against UVA rays, which are linked to aging skin and skin cancer. And three sunscreens received fair to poor ratings for UVB protection. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer.

The Truth about Sunscreen

There are many misconceptions when it comes to sunscreen.  Consumer Reports examined a handful of myths and sought to set the record straight.  

Below are a few featured in the report: 


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The FDA tests sunscreens before they hit store shelves.  The Food and Drug Administration requires sunscreen manufacturers to test their products, but it doesn’t verify the testing, require manufacturers to report results, or do premarket testing itself.  

The agency does require sunscreen manufacturers to meet certain standards for the use of the following terms on labels: SPF, broad spectrum, and water-resistant.

Kids need a special formula.  The FDA doesn’t make a distinction between kids’ sunscreen and others, or hold it to a higher safety standard.  Manufacturers use the same active ingredients, sometimes in the same concentration, in both types.  

Some sunscreens for children (and adult sunscreens for sensitive skin) contain only the minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients, because they may be less irritating to skin than sunscreens containing chemicals, such as avobenzone.  Some kids’ products do, however, contain chemical sunscreens. 

Spray sunscreens provide the best coverage.  If used correctly, spray sunscreens are protective.  But it can be hard for someone to judge the amount of sunscreen they are using, and that can lead to much less protection.  

Spray pattern can make a difference, too. Inhaling spray sunscreen could cause lung irritation, and, when inhaled, titanium dioxide is a possible carcinogen.  And flammability is a danger when sprays are used near an open flame.

For the full report and Ratings of 20 sunscreens tests, check out the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and  

Consumer Reports is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.  It accepts no advertising and pay for all the products it tests.

Cross Country Campaign Offers Free Skin Cancer Screening

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour, presented by Rite Aid, one of the nation’s leading drugstore chains, will launch its annual cross-country journey this month, bringing free skin cancer screenings to communities in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Now in its seventh year, the Road to Healthy Skin Tour works with local volunteer dermatologists who provide quick, easy and potentially life-saving full-body skin cancer screenings. This year’s Tour begins on May 27 in New York City and ends on August 30 in San Diego, Calif., making more than 50 stops along the way at Rite Aid stores.

In addition to providing screenings the Tour raises skin cancer awareness and educates the public about the importance of prevention and early detection.

More than 18,000 people have received free screenings since the Tour began in 2008. To date, more than 7,000 suspected cancers and precancers have been detected, including more than 300 suspected melanomas.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than two million people diagnosed each year," said Rite Aid Executive Vice President of Pharmacy Robert Thompson, RPh. " Rite Aid has been a part of the Road to Healthy Skin Tour since its inception and we are proud to support the Foundation in its mission to help raise skin cancer awareness as well as provide potentially life-saving full-body skin cancer screenings to the communities we serve.”

In addition to emphasizing the importance of early detection, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone adopt a complete sun-protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing (including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses) and wearing broad spectrum sunscreen every day.

Tour participants will receive educational materials that explain how to perform monthly skin checks at home and the proper ways to protect the skin from the sun on a daily basis, along with sunscreen samples and other giveaways. For the complete Tour schedule, visit .

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour, presented by Rite Aid, receives additional support from Energizer Personal Care – the makers of Banana Boat® and Hawaiian Tropic® brand sunscreens – and BASF Corporation – a leading supplier of UV filters and cosmetic ingredients.

Humor in Advertising Used to Urge Men Over 50 to Check for Skin Cancer

The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) today launched “Lawn,” a public service advertisement that encourages older men to check their skin for suspicious or changing spots. Although melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can strike anyone, men older than 50 are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.

“According to an Academy survey, men are less likely than women to know how to examine their skin for signs of skin cancer,” said board-certified dermatologist Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, FAAD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine. “Yet, checking your skin only requires a few minutes and could save your life.”

Using humorous scenarios, “Lawn” points out that if men will do anything to take care of a spot on their lawn, they should do the same for a spot on their skin. Distributed to television and cable stations nationwide, the TV PSA encourages men to check their skin and have someone they trust check the areas they can’t see. “Lawn” can be viewed on the Academy’s YouTube channel and at

“Although the PSA uses humor to inspire action, skin cancer is a serious matter,” said Dr. Rohrer. “When caught early, skin cancer, including melanoma, is highly treatable. If you see something that is changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

How to Recognize Melanoma Skin Cancer

About Care of Mature Skin

   • Mature skin is physiologically different from young skin and needs to be treated in a specialized manner.

   • The incidence of skin problems tends to be higher in older adults than in other age groups.

   • There are certain skin conditions and tumors that generally only occur in older adults.

Read about mature skin care at American Academy of Dermatology

To increase people’s chances of spotting skin cancer early, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone learn the ABCDE rule, which outlines the warning signs of melanoma: 

  • A – is for Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half. 

  • B – is for Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched or blurred. 

  • C – is for Color that varies from one area to another. 

  • D – is for Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller. 

  • E – is for Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color. 

In addition to launching the PSA, the Academy is teaching everyone how to SPOT Skin Cancer™. SPOT Skin Cancer™ is the Academy’s campaign to create a world without skin cancer through public awareness, community outreach programs and services, and advocacy that promote the prevention, detection and care of skin cancer.

On the Academy’s website – – visitors can learn how to perform a skin cancer self-exam through the “How to SPOT Skin Cancer™” infographic, test how much they know – or don’t know – about skin cancer through the SPOT Skin Cancer™ Quiz, and find free skin cancer screenings in their area. Individuals who have been affected by skin cancer can share their personal stories and provide support and inspiration for others fighting skin cancer, as well as communicate the importance of prevention and early detection. 

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin). 

What are the key statistics about melanoma skin cancer?

Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

Here are the American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2014:

Ř  About 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 43,890 in men and 32,210 in women).

Ř  About 9,710 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,470 men and 3,240 women).

The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.

Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2% (1 in 50) for whites, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for blacks, and 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics. The risk for each person can be affected by a number of different factors, which are described in the section “What are the risk factors for melanoma skin cancer?

The risk of melanoma increases with age – the average age at the time it is found is 61. But melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).

For melanoma survival statistics, see the section “What are the survival rates for melanoma skin cancer by stage?

Read more about skin cancer at the American Cancer Society.

How to Reduce Your Skin Cancer Risk:

Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is strongest. An extra rule of thumb is the “shadow rule.” If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s harmful UV radiation is stronger; if your shadow is longer, UV radiation is less intense.

Do not burn. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any point in life.

Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths. UV radiation from tanning machines is known to cause cancer in humans, and the more time a person has spent tanning indoors, the higher the risk. Those who make just four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase their risk for melanoma by 11 percent, and their risk for the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, by 15 percent.

Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection, so make the most of it with densely woven and bright-or dark-colored fabrics, which offer the best defense. The more skin you cover, the better, so choose long sleeves and long pants whenever possible.

  1. Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

  2. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

  3. Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens may be used on babies over the age of six months, but they should also be protected by shade and clothing. Children are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation— just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.

  4. Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. While self-exams shouldn’t replace the important annual skin exam performed by a physician, they offer the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately.

  5. See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

   • Melanoma Research Foundation offers free pdf guide showing how to examine your body for skin cancer.

Information from the Skin Cancer Foundation

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