Health

A Woman With Skin Cancer Posted A Graphic Selfie To Warn Against Tanning

Tawny Willoughby, a 27-year-old from Alabama, shared a picture on Facebook showing what skin cancer treatment can potentially look like. The picture has since been shared by nearly 50,000 people. WARNING: Some may find the image disturbing.

1. Tawny Willoughby is 27 years old, and was first diagnosed with skin cancer when she was 21.

Tawny Willoughby / Via Twitter: @tawnybelle11

 

Willoughby, a registered nurse in Alabama, says she has been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma five times, and squamous cell carcinoma once. She wrote on Facebook that she goes to the dermatologist every 6 to 12 months, and she usually has a skin cancer removed at each checkup.

2. Back in April, Willoughby was undergoing a round of skin cancer treatment and shared this selfie on Facebook to warn people about the dangers of tanning beds.

Willoughby writes that she has received numerous treatments for her multiple cancers: a cream called Aldara (imiquimod) is what caused the scabbing in her picture; she’s also had curettage and electrodessication; cryosurgery; surgical excision; and photodynamic therapy.

3. She writes: “If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.”

.shock / Getty Images

Willoughby says that she used to do indoor tanning a lot in high school: “I probably laid an average of 4-5 times a week,” she says. As the mother of a 2-year-old, she writes that the issue of tanning is even more serious to her now: “Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two year old little boy of my own.”

The World Health Organization recently added ultraviolet (UV) radiation-emitting tanning devices, like tanning beds and lamps, to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. People who use tanning beds under the age of 30 increase their risk of melanoma by 75%. They’re also 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma (other forms of skin cancer). Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but the other cancers can kill also.

4. Her picture has now been shared almost 50,000 times. After the picture began to gain in popularity, someone reported it to Facebook for containing graphic violence. But in spite of the complaints, it hasn’t been removed.

5. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and healthy when it comes to skin cancer:

Ridofranz / Getty Images

1. Don’t use tanning beds. If you currently use them, stop.

2. Wear a hat and cover-up clothing when you’re going to be in the sun to protect yourself as much as possible. And apply broad-spectrum sunscreen the right way — 15 minutes before you’re planning to be in the sun. Reapply according to what it says on the bottle.

3. Pay attention to what your skin looks like, and keep an eye on anything new or suspicious that comes up. That includes moles (which most people know about), but it doesn’t HAVE to be moles. In fact, Willoughby says that only one of her skin cancers was from a mole. She writes: “Skin cancer is not always moles, only one of mine have been a mole. Get any suspicious, new and growing spot checked out. Anything that doesn’t heal, possibly bleeds on and off and crusts. The sooner you find it the less likely it will leave a disfiguring scar or grow deep enough to metastasize. Melanoma kills, non melanoma disfigures (and can also kill). Don’t be a statistic!” Here are tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation on what to look for when you’re giving yourself a check.

4. Talk to your doctor about how often you need to get a full-body skin check.

BuzzFeed Life reached out to Willoughby for comment.

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