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  • Writer's pictureHawkins Gate

Skin Cancer in the Elderly

Skin cancer begins in the cells that make up the outer layer of your skin. There are three types of skin cancer that typically impact older people: Melanoma, Basal cell skin cancer and Squamous cell skin cancer.

Melanoma is more aggressive than basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell skin cancer.

Risk factors for melanoma include the following:

  • Unusual moles

  • Exposure to natural sunlight

  • Exposure to artificial ultraviolet light (tanning booth)

  • Family or personal history of melanoma

  • Being white and older than 20 years

  • Red or blond hair

  • White or light-colored skin and freckles

  • Blue eyes

Melanoma Warning Signs

To be on the lookout for skin cancer, check moles twice a year. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • A change in the appearance, including the size, shape and color of a mole or pigmented area.

  • Moles with irregular edges or borders.

  • More than one color in a mole.

  • An asymmetrical mole (if the mole is divided in half, the 2 halves are different in size or shape).

  • Itches, oozes or bleeds.

  • Ulcerated (a hole forms in the skin when the top layer of cells breaks down and the underlying tissue shows through).

  • Change in pigmented (colored) skin.

  • Satellite moles (new moles that grow near an existing mole).

There are many different tests that examine the skin used to detect and diagnose melanoma or other skin cancer in elderly people. If a mole or pigmented area of the skin changes or looks abnormal, a skin examination by a doctor or nurse, or a biopsy can help detect and diagnose melanoma and other skin cancers.

Chance of Recovering From Skin Cancer

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of melanoma

  • Whether there was bleeding or ulceration at the primary site

  • The location and size of the tumor

  • The elderly patient's general health

Although many people are successfully treated, melanoma can recur. After melanoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the skin or to other parts of the body. The process used to find out whether cancer has spread within the skin or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

Information obtained from and the National Cancer Institute

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