Dialog Box

Loading...

Senior Skin Health Information

(60+ years)

 

Ageing of the skin occurs naturally (intrinsic ageing), but is accelerated by exposure to UV irradiation from the sun or from past solarium uses (photo ageing). Like every other organ in the body, skin is made up of cells. Each cell possesses DNA, the material which contains instructions for that cell’s purpose. Over a person’s lifespan, this DNA can be damaged. When that person is young, this damage can usually be efficiently repaired and the cell is able to continue functioning normally. However, with time, the ability of each cell to repair its DNA decreases. As a result, the DNA becomes progressively more damaged, and the cell loses its ability to function effectively. This is thought to be the basis of the ageing process. 

Skin changes related to intrinsic (“normal”) ageing include a loss of elasticity and increased fragility, with aged skin being prone to injury and bruising (senile purpura). More seborrhoeic keratoses may occur. In addition, small, dilated blood vessels (telangiectases) may occur on the face. 

Changes associated with photo ageing (exposure to UV light) include the appearance of brown blotches (pigmentation) and freckles, which occur as a result of the skin’s response to sun exposure. Thickening and yellow discolouration of the skin (solar elastosis) may also be seen, and clusters of whiteheads and/or blackheads (solar comedones) are not uncommon.

 

In those with a long history of smoking, increased wrinkling and greyish discolouration of the skin is often noted, especially around the mouth. 

 

Suggestions for skin care

As this is the age group most at risk of developing skin cancer, it is important that individuals regularly check themselves for any new moles, suspicious looking spots, or for any changes in existing moles. If you notice one of these changes, it is best to see your doctor to make sure they are nothing dangerous. If you are fair skinned, have lots of moles, or a family history of skin cancer, it is a good idea to have your doctor perform regular skin checks.

Elderly skin is particularly vulnerable to damage from accidental trauma. Take care to avoid pulling or placing pressure on the skin to avoid bruising or tearing – while such forces may not leave so much as a mark on younger, more resilient skin, they make cause marked bruising in the elderly. Regular moisturising may make the skin less vulnerable.

 

Common skin conditions

Aged skin is vulnerable to developing many different skin problems. Of particular concern is skin cancer, with the elderly being at increased risk, resulting from cumulative sun exposure from a lifetime in the sun.

 

In addition, other factors may also contribute to this increased risk such as decreased DNA repair capacity of aged skin, as well as a degree of immunosuppression also related to sun exposure.

 

There are several different types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and malignant melanoma. As these conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated, early detection is very important. If you notice any skin changes, see your doctor.

Click hotspots on the image below for skin condition information.

 

 

Skin Cancer

Aged skin is vulnerable to developing many different skin problems. Of particular concern is skin cancer, with the elderly being at increased risk, resulting from cumulative sun exposure from a lifetime in the sun. In addition, other factors may also contribute to this increased risk such as decreased DNA repair capacity of aged skin, as well as a degree of immunosuppression also related to sun exposure.

 

At least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. Skin cancers will usually present as a spot, freckle or mole that is visibly different to the skin surrounding it. It is often a new spot but skin cancer can also be present in a pre-existing spot that has changed colour, size or shape.

It is important that you see a dermatologist if you have any marks or spots on your skin that are: 

  • Growing
  • Changing shape
  • Bleeding or itching

 

There are several different types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and malignant melanoma. As these conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated, early detection is very important. If you notice any skin changes, see your doctor.  

 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC):

this is the most common form of skin cancer and is caused by exposure to the sun over many years. This condition typically presents as a sore which does not heal. Alternatively, it may be a sore which bleeds, then heals completely, but then recurs. These often occur on areas which get a lot of sun exposure, such as the head and neck, but may occur anywhere on the body. Some people who experience multiple BCCs on the body may have inherited a genetic susceptibility to develop these. BCCs may have a “pearly” edge, and are typically slow growing. 

 

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC):

is particularly associated with cumulative sun exposure. A SCC often presents as a rapidly growing skin-coloured scaly lump, which is firm to touch, and typically tender. As mentioned, actinic (solar) keratoses are red, scaly spots which are common on sun exposed areas in the elderly. Although not yet cancerous, these can develop into SCCs. 

 

Melanoma:

while BCCs and SCCs are more commonly associated with lots of sun exposure over time, melanomas are thought to be related to genetic factors, numbers of moles and a history of sunburns. They are the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can have a number of different appearances but are often dark and irregularly coloured. Most importantly, they change relatively quickly, over weeks but sometimes even days.  

Read more

 

Ageing Skin

Older adults experience significant signs of ageing skin. There are numerous factors that contribute to the appearance of aged skin, the most common being previous sun exposure.

Very commonly in Australia, older adults will have received regular exposure to ultraviolet radiation over their life and this will have had significant impact on their skin (particularly damage to the dermis, the underneath layer of the skin). This is known as photoageing. Dermatologists are able to advise on which of the thousands of skin care products available will have various effects on your skin. Some of the treatments that they might recommend include:

  • Topical creams and lotions 
  • Injections to reduce lines, wrinkles and expression lines
  • Use of Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) or lasers
  • Cosmetic surgery

 

Many medications are known to cause rashes or other skin problems in some people. Given that elderly individuals tend to be on more medications than younger people, drug reactions involving the skin are not uncommon in this age group. There are some drugs which are more often associated with drug reactions, and doctors can help with sorting this out. Read more 

 

Eczema

Eczema is a common condition in this age group, as it is for all ages. A discoid (nummular) pattern may be seen, which can either involve “dry” (crusty, cracked) or “wet” (oozing, blistering) oval-shaped patches. These can be various shades of pink, red or brown, and may be very itchy. 

 

Another skin condition common in the elderly includes asteatotic eczema, which frequently affects older people during the winter, when humidity drops and the skin dries out. The front of the shins are mainly involved, with the skin becoming very dry, cracked and quite itchy. Another common condition affecting the lower legs is venous eczema. This involves patches of eczema located over superficial veins. Read more

 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another skin condition frequently seen in older adults. It is characterised by red patches with a white, scaly surface, and can sometimes resemble eczema. These patches are of varying size and often affect the scalp, although people often present with more generalised psoriasis affecting much of the body. It tends to have a symmetrical distribution (i.e. occurs on both sides of the body).

 

There are many different prescription treatments available, but the field of psoriasis has recently been completely reinvigorated by the use of a new class of treatments, the ‘biologics’, which can be extremely effective in severe disease.  Read more

 

Alopecia

The term 'alopecia' refers to hair loss. While we all lose hair everyday (losing 50-100 hairs per day is considered normal), some people will develop disorders of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, or female and male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). If you experience sudden or significant hair loss or hair thinning, then you should consider seeing a dermatologist for a specialist medical diagnosis and advice. Read more

 

Occupational Contact Dermatitis

Increasingly, people in Australia are working until they’re older, and evidence shows that as we move beyond “retirement age”, there are still numerous possible health benefits to be derived from our engagement in an occupation.

 

However, even if you have been working for most of your life, your skin can still be susceptible to occupational contact dermatitis. This may be caused by irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis.

 

While irritant contact dermatitis is most common, there are also many potential causes of allergic contact dermatitis. This is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction, so people do not get itchy rashes straight away after contacting a chemical that causes allergy (allergen) - it can take hours or even a day or two. Important occupational allergens include chromate in cement and leather, hairdressing chemicals such as hair dye and bleach, and rubber chemicals in certain gloves.

 

It is said that 4000 chemicals (of a total of 100,000) can cause allergic contact dermatitis. The most common cause of non-occupational contact dermatitis is nickel from cheap jewellery. Other important allergens include fragrances and preservatives in skin care products.  Read more

 

Read more about ageing skin.

Support Our Research
Thank you for helping the Skin & Cancer Foundation continue its groundbreaking research in to skin cancer and health!
Stay In Touch
Email address is required.
Submit