- Actor Hugh Jackman recently announced that he was going through a new skin cancer scare.
- He took the opportunity to educate his followers and urge sunscreen use.
- Surprisingly, many people do not use sunscreen as well as they should.
- Dermatologists say avoiding UV exposure is important to preventing skin cancer.
- Early detection through self-screening makes skin cancer highly treatable.
Jackman noted that, when it comes to skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is “the least dangerous of them all.” However, it is still important to wear sunscreen, he advised. “It is just not worth it. No matter how much you want a tan … .”
He further pointed out that what is happening to him now is due to sun exposure that he had 25 years prior.
“Put some sunscreen on. You’ll still have an incredible time out there,” he concluded.
Jackman later announced via Instagram Stories that he was cancer free, writing: “My biopsies came back negative!!! Thank you ALL for the love. I feel it!”
However, this is not the star’s first cancer scare.
Per the BBC, Jackman’s first brush with the disease occurred in 2013 and he has since had at least six procedures to remove cancerous lesions.
Since his initial diagnosis, he has become a strong advocate for skin cancer prevention.
Dr. Susan Massick, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said she thanks Jackman for his honesty regarding his battle with skin cancer, including the way he has spoken about how he acquired the disease and the need for proper screening, diagnosis, and treatment.
She noted that, as Jackman stated, skin cancer arises because of exposure years before.
“[P]rolonged sun exposure, childhood sunburns, and blistering sunburns can have a cumulative effect on your skin, leading to wrinkling, premature aging, discoloration, and even more concerning, skin cancer,” said Massick.
When you are exposed to UV radiation from the sun it creates cellular damage and affects the skin’s ability to repair.
Massick said that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. The good news, however, is that is preventable and treatable.
The most important way to protect ourselves from skin cancer? Being aware of our exposure to UV light and avoiding it — even on cloudy days. And, as Jackman pointed out, sunscreen plays a central role as well.
Jackman’s efforts to educate people about using sunscreen are particularly praiseworthy considering the fact that many people are woefully uneducated about the dangers of the sun — even when they think they know the facts.
In 2021, the American Academy of Dermatology did a survey in which they found that, despite the high marks people gave themselves on their knowledge of skin cancer, many were not as knowledgeable as they believed.
For example, one-third of people who took the survey said they had gotten a sunburn, even though they had described themselves as having “excellent” knowledge about sun protection.
Additionally, the survey found that 67% of people did not really understand the true meaning of “SPF” or how much protection a particular SPF can provide.
Sixty-five percent of respondents also said that they had forgotten to apply sunscreen as needed.
Dr. Terrence A. Cronin Jr., FAAD, and president of the American Academy of Dermatology, said that as a board-certified dermatologist, there are several pieces of advice that he gives people about practicing “safe sun” in order to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
- Seek shade when appropriate. Cronin noted that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. “If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade,” he advised.
- Wear sun-protective clothing. This could include lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection, according to Cronin. He also advises looking for clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
- Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Cronin explained that a broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Both types are harmful to the skin. Specifically, you should be using sunscreen anytime you are outside, even on overcast days. Apply enough to cover all exposed areas (about 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, for the average adult). Reapply every two hours or after you have been swimming or have sweated.
Cronin reiterated that skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer and is highly treatable if detected early.
“I recommend that people check their skin regularly by performing a skin self-exam. If you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin or have any spots that are changing, itching, or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist,” he said.
Massick added that you can tell if spots are suspicious by remembering the “ABCDEs” — asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter, and evolution of appearance or symptoms.
You might also want to consider seeing a doctor if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, a high number of moles, or a history including multiple or blistering sunburns or prior tanning bed use, she said.