Older skin needs more protection from the sun

June 15th, 2009 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Marburg (Germany), June 15 (DPA) Whether gardening at home or cavorting in the Mediterranean, older people need to be aware that sunbathing without some kind of UV (Ultraviolet Ray) protection is a danger.
“Seniors should use the same kind of sunscreen as children,” advises Alexandra Renkawitz of the German Green Cross, a consumer health organisation. The extra protection is needed because older skin is particularly sensitive to sunlight.

“As you age, cell creation slows down. The skin gets drier and more sensitive,” she says. That also means older skin needs a longer time to recover from sun damage.

It’s best to wear billowy, long-armed clothing, plus a sun hat and sunscreen with UV protection. These should all be part of an older person’s standard summer attire. “And instead of getting direct sun, sit in the shade as often as possible,” advises Renkawitz.

The elderly also need to keep an eye out for lingering effects of past sun damage, says Dirk Eichelberg, a dermatologist in the German town of Dortmund. “Sunscreens used in the past didn’t have enough protection,” he says.

Skin takes a long time to recover from every sunburn. It can take 40 years for damage to become evident in some cases. That’s why dermatologists assume that the number of elderly suffering from common skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma will grow.

“We’re counting up to 200,000 new cases every year. It’s growing explosively,” says Eichelberg.

That’s why, the older one gets, the more important it becomes to note changes in the skin, adds Herberg Kirschech, a doctor of dermatological diseases in the German town of Pulheim. Regardless of whether the symptoms are reddening, flakiness or a scab: “As soon as you see anything unusual on your body, don’t delay. Go to your doctor.”

“Protecting yourself from the sun has to be a daily activity,” says Eichelberg. It’s best to start first thing in the morning.

“Apply sunscreen half an hour before you leave the house,” he says. The sun protection factor (SPF) should be as high as possible.

Older people with bald spots or thinning hair need to protect the top of their head, preferably with a hat or other head covering. “Otherwise you run the risk of dizziness and other circulatory disruptions,” warns Kirschech.

Clothing also offers some protection. “A white T-shirt has an SPF of eight,” says Eichelberg. Renkawitz recommends clothing with a thick knit and dark colours. “Then the least amount of sunlight gets through.”

Taking calcium or eating vegetables with high levels of carotene do not help build up natural protection from sunlight. “The effect is almost zero,” says Kirschech.

Special care also needs to be taken when taking medications, warns Renkawitz. “Some beta-blockers and antibiotics can lead to sensitivity to light.”

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