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Skin Cancer Rising In The Over-50s

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

In recent years, there has been a concerning rise in skin cancer cases among individuals aged over 50. Here, Eoin explores the medical facts and potential reasons behind this surge.
Skin Cancer In The Over-50s

Those sunshine-filled holidays in the 1970s and 80s may have been some of your favourite memories. But while we were enjoying the heat of the Med, slathering ourselves in SPF just wasn't a big thing. Sadly, we are now seeing more and more patients with skin cancer as the price they are paying for those carefree days.

Cumulative Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can lead to DNA damage in skin cells, increasing the risk of skin cancer development. Many of the over-50s have spent many years engaged in outdoor recreational activities or simply spent more time in the sunshine without adequate SPF protection.

Sunburns During Youth: Sunburns, especially during childhood and adolescence, have been linked to an elevated risk of skin cancer in later years. The impact of these early sunburns can manifest decades later, underscoring the importance of sun protection from an early age.

Decline in Immune Function: As we age, our immune system naturally weakens, a process known as immunosenescence. This weakened immune response is as effective in detecting and eliminating abnormal cells, including cancerous ones. Consequently, skin cancers that develop in older age can have a higher chance of evading the immune system's surveillance, allowing them to grow and progress more rapidly.

Changes in Skin Structure: Ageing is associated with changes in the structure and function of the skin; it becomes thinner, loses elasticity and is more susceptible to damage. These changes can make older individuals more vulnerable to the harmful effects of UV radiation, leading to an increased risk of skin cancer.

Delayed Diagnosis: This is one thing we see all too often, especially when it comes to men of a certain age who may dismiss early red flags. Unfortunately, this can cause a delay in identification and treatment of skin cancer.


It is crucial to prioritise sun protection as we age, as well as perform regular self-examinations and seek medical attention promptly if they notice any suspicious changes. Read more about preventative measures ion our blog post here.

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