Congratulations. You’ve survived life’s slings and arrows, and made it to your senior years. It took some brains. It took common sense. Now is not the time to abandon those assets.

Many older people seem to feel that after navigating past decades of life’s pitfalls, they can cast caution to the winds – especially when it comes to sun exposure. The thinking may go like this: “I’ve never had skin cancer. It takes decades for skin cancer to develop, so I’m never going to get it. I’m moving to Arizona and reveling in the sun.”

In our advanced years, our skin loses fat and water content and becomes thinner, allowing UV light to penetrate more deeply. Compounding the problem, the body’s natural ability to repair damaged DNA diminishes, increasing the likelihood of abnormal cell growth that can cause mutations leading to skin cancer.

Since we know that UV exposure is its primary cause, skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. Fortunately for older people, prevention is not that big a burden. It just takes some consistent precaution: 1) stay out of tanning beds, 2) use effective sun protection, and 3) check your skin.

Proper sun protection starts with timing. The hours between 10 AM and 4 PM are typically the most UV-intense, so plan outside adventures for early morning or late afternoon. When you do go outside, seek shade from the direct sun, and wear sun-safe clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt and long pants made of densely woven materials, a wide brimmed hat, and UV-filtering sunglasses. Use a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen and reapply at least every two hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating.

Finally, along with protecting your skin, watch for suspicious growths. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends head-to-toe self-examination once a month and an annual visit to a dermatologist for a professional total-body exam. This will give you the best chance of discovering skin cancer at an early, easily treatable stage.

A dermatologist can partially repair some of your lifelong sun damage, using techniques such as lasers and photodynamic therapy, dermabrasion, and topical medications like retinoids, helping to rejuvenate your skin while also removing precancerous lesions, thereby reducing your risk of skin cancer.

Finally, you’ve probably heard more than one older person say something like, “When I was young, no one used sunscreen. It’s too late to change the past, so if I get skin cancer, I get it.” You now know that’s not true. It’s never too late to reduce your skin cancer risk. So take care of yourself.