Can you be too old to get melanoma? Is it true that if you have never gotten melanoma by a certain age…you’ll probably never get it?
If this is true, how is it that advancing age is a risk factor for melanoma?
“Dermatologists used to see about one melanoma a year and perhaps two if they had a very busy practice,” explains Dr. Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon with a private practice in Omaha, NE.
“Now, they routinely see 12 or more a year and the melanomas straddle every age, including 80+ year olds!”
I know a man who, when he was 89, a dermatologist performed a skin exam, pronounced everything as being normal, and told him he probably would never get melanoma if he’d lived this long without ever developing it. I thought, “What?!”
Why are more melanomas being diagnosed including in the 80-something year-old group?
Dr. Schlessinger explains, “The reason for this is that the sunlight exposure has become stronger over the years with the ozone layer becoming depleted.
“Additionally, as sun habits have changed, older individuals have now been exposed to recreational sun much more than in the past and that leads to increased risk for melanoma.
“That doesn’t mean that they have as many melanomas as younger individuals, but it does mean that every age needs to protect and be aware of skin changes.
I find that moles on older individuals are often benign (no risk) but that when I see a melanoma in an older individual it tends to be more aggressive.
“Additionally, with the advent of newer medications for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and conditions such as multiple sclerosis that can actually make melanomas more likely, it is important to be checked more thoroughly by your dermatologist.
“Additionally, it is important to protect your skin, whatever age you are!”