Caitlyn Jenner's Ongoing Skin Cancer Battle
- Jenner says she grew up doing outdoor sports in the era before sunscreen
- She’s been treated for skin cancers on her cheek and nose, requiring plastic surgery to repair scars
- In her recent makeup video, she expressed concern about a new spot on her nose, vowing to get it checked by a dermatologist
Cancers On Cheek And Nose
In the video, Jenner pointed to her cheek where a “basal cell carcinoma” was removed, leaving a scar. Later, she said a cancerous spot appeared on the tip of her nose. “I had to go in and get it cut out,” she shared.
In Jenner’s makeup tutorial on You Tube, she gets candid about her skin cancer
“They cut it out, made a 10-millimeter hole, then I had to drive across town, go to a plastic surgeon, and he cut all this ‘S’ thing all the way down my nose, took all the skin off my nose.”
“[The doctor] reattached it, because there’s no skin to cover the hole — the guy did an amazing job — and, really, you couldn’t even see it,” she explained.
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Then Jenner looked in the mirror and paused, troubled by a new discovery: “Unfortunately, I’m seeing a little red spot in exactly in the same spot — that’s kind of scary. So, on a future episode, we may go in the dermatologists’ office with Caitlyn Jenner. Go get that thing checked out.”
Jenner also added that she’d been prescribed a chemo cream to treat recurrent skin cancer on her nose.
Chemo Cream: How Does It Work?
Topical chemo creams may be used to treat areas of “field cancerization” — like Jenner’s nose — where skin cancer recurs. “He used a chemo cream to fix it last time,” Jenner said of her dermatologist. “But my nose blew up and I looked like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” she said, adding that she had to “get ahead of the story” when paparazzi snapped a photo during her chemo-cream treatment.
In an article for the Skin Cancer Foundation, Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, the Foundation’s president, said these areas can leave patients feeling like they’re “playing Whack-a-Mole,” with new cancers popping up in places that have been recently treated.
Doctors call areas of field cancerization a patient’s “tinderbox,” Dr. Sarnoff says, because of their “high concentration of sun damage, precancers, or skin cancers in a particular area.”
“Field cancerization may have a genetic component or be linked to a very bad sunburn from years earlier,” she notes.
When choosing a suncreen, says Dr. Cecilia Larocca, a dermatologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, look for a broad-spectrum formula and reapply often.
A chemo cream like 5-fluorouracil (brand name, Efudex) is FDA-approved to treat superficial basal cell carcinoma, with cure rates between 80 and 90 percent.
“If you practice good prevention and see a dermatologist for field treatment,” Dr. Sarnoff says, “you have a good chance of fewer problems popping up.”
What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinomas can look like sores, red or pink growths, shiny bumps, scars, or slightly misshapen growths, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
If you have a mark or lump on your skin that you think is suspicious, or if you know you’ve been exposed to a lot of sun, it’s worth it to get checked out by a dermatologist.
“After my fight with basal cell carcinomas,” Jenner shared on Instagram, “I regularly see my dermatologist and wear lots of SPF products. PSA: wear lots of sunscreen all the time! Yes, even in the winter.”
Top 5 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
In a conversation with SurvivorNet, dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and an associate at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, shared her top tips for preventing skin cancer.
- Get an annual skin check from a professional. While watching for changing moles and new skin lesions is good advice, in addition, “we need to make sure that we have yearly skin checks because it’s difficult to evaluate areas all over the body,” Dr. Engelman said. “So, we need to get a professional to make sure that we’re monitoring everything .”
- Wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher year-round, she added.
- Avoid sun during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
- Don’t forget to protect eyes: Wear sunglasses.
- And finally, avoid tanning beds at all costs. If you’re looking for a healthy glow, sunless tanner is safest the way to go.