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Are Seniors Underestimating the Risk of Melanoma?

According to a recent study done by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, many seniors over the age of 60 do not take the increased risk of melanoma seriously enough.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and can spread throughout the body and cause serious illness or even death if left untreated although if it is recognized and treated early it is usually curable. So why are so many seniors ignoring this risk?

The reason it seems is simple, most of us understand the risk due to our natural skin and hair color, i.e. fair skinned redheads know that they sunburn easily and thus know that they should always wear a sunscreen or other protection when in the harmful rays of the sun, but changes to our hair and skin as we get older seems to lead to confusion.

Lead researcher Dr Mary Jane Sneyd, from the University of Otago's Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit, said, "What we found is that in general, people are estimating their risk reasonably well on the basis of their phenotype, such as that if you are fair or red haired, and blue eyed you have a greater risk, and if you have dark hair, darker skin color and dark eyes you have a lower risk. But, as people got older, they saw themselves as having lower risk of melanoma and yet the risk of melanoma goes up greatly with age - as with most cancers."

The American Cancer Society estimates that there are over 120,000 new cases of melanoma every year and the facts however speak for themselves, 58.8% of those diagnosed with melanoma are over the age of 60 while only 2.4% are under the age of 30.

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