Why is skin cancer more common in old age?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The risk of skin cancer increases in old age as the body loses the ability to replace worn-out cells with perfect new cells.  Watch the animation to see all the effects of aging on the skin.

Skin cancer is more common with age because damage from ultraviolet (UV) light builds up over time. Ultraviolet light, whether from the sun or tanning lamps, changes the DNA in your skin cells. DNA is the coding that tells your cells how to reproduce. If the DNA is damaged, the cells may produce cancer cells instead of healthy ones. Also, with age your body's ability to find and destroy cancer cells decreases. Finally, you produce fewer new skin cells, so the proportion of old skin cells is higher. Older cells behave differently. For example, young fibroblasts — cells that make the structure connecting skin and other tissues — help control the growth of other cells. Older fibroblasts don't do this as well, and cells that grow in an unregulated way can sometimes result in tumors.

Use a sunscreen and wear protective clothing to safeguard your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.