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Senior alert: tips to avoid melanoma

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The Savvy Senior, an informational website serving the senior market, is offering ways to avoid contracting deadly melanoma, which disproportionately affects Caucasians over age 50, who have light hair and eyes or a history of skin cancer or sunburns in their youth.

Get regular checkups

If you are over 50, you should receive a full-body skin exam by a dermatologist once a year. Between doctor visits, check yourself for new growths, moles that have undergone change or sores that won’t heal. For photographs of what to look for, visit

Protect yourself

Controlling sun exposure is the best medicine: When possible, avoid exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Damaging ultraviolet rays are at their peak during these hours. Use a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30. A nonprescription sun-pill, called Heliocare, also provides UV protection. Wear adequate clothing with a thick weave to block the sun’s rays. Sunglasses that offer broad-spectrum protection can help prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and melanoma around the eyelids.

When caught and treated early, melanoma is nearly 100 percent curable. Untreated, however, it can spread and can become fatal.

Finally, get a free skin cancer screening. Check with the American Academy of Dermatology (888-462-3376, which offers free screenings done by hundreds of volunteer dermatologists across the nation. You can also find free screening through the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (, and the Skin Cancer Foundation (


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