Doc, does older skin need sun protection?

Here are tips to lower your chance of getting skin cancer.


Dear doctor, 

I’m 70 years old and from the era when we used baby oil and aluminum blankets to catch the perfect golden tan. I know better now, but do I still need to protect my skin at my age?



Dear Nancy,

I’m glad you’re no longer baking yourself in the sun. But don’t think you’re off the hook for protecting your skin.

Believe me, you still have a chance of getting skin cancer. In fact, most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age. This is because aging skin is more easily damaged by the sun. And, that raises your chances of getting skin cancer. 

Unfortunately, less than half of older adults protect their skin from the sun when outside for an hour or more. It’s important for you to follow these tips to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer:

  • Stay in the shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, find a shady spot.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing. Good choices include: 
    • A lightweight, long-sleeved shirt
    • Long pants
    • A wide-brimmed hat
    • Sunglasses with UV protection

Schedule your annual skin exam


Ask your doctor about it during your Annual Wellness Visit.

Find care in your state

  • When you shop for sun protective clothing, look for an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreen helps protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. It should have an SPF of 30 or higher. Remember to:
    • Use sunscreen when you're outside, even on cloudy days.
    • Use enough sunscreen to cover all skin not covered by clothing. Most adults need about one ounce to fully cover their body. That's about enough to fill a shot glass.
    • Put sunscreen on the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.
  • When outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Don’t use tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.
  • If you want to look tan, use a self-tanning product. But you'll still need to use sunscreen.
  • Check yourself often. See your doctor if you:
    • See new or odd-looking spots on your skin, or 
    • See anything changing, itching or bleeding

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. But you can care for it if it's found early.

In good health, 

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care 


Will Medicare cover an Annual Wellness Visit?


Original Medicare covers the Annual Wellness Visit at 100% of the Medicare-approved amount when you get the service from a provider who accepts Medicare. You pay nothing (no deductible or coinsurance).

Medicare Advantage plans must cover Annual Wellness Visits without applying deductibles, copays or coinsurance when you:

  • See a network provider, and 
  • Meet Medicare’s rules for the service


The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.