Learning About Skin Cancer
- Bethenny Frankel, 51, recently announced the launch of a 5-piece swimwear line.
- The Real Housewives of New York star was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma in 2017. She had surgery to remove the cancer, and she’s since advocated for skin protection.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common cancer in the United States.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and develops when basal cells, one of three main types of cells in the top layer of the skin, grow abnormally or uncontrollably.
The former “Real Housewife” and Skinnygirl founder just launched of Bethenny Swimwear – her first collection of bathing suits with American free-to-air television network HSN.Read More
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“Launching elevated, elegant, sophisticated, shaping swim to make EVERY BODY feel their best & beautiful,” she wrote in her caption. “Click the link in my bio to shop #bethennyswimwear right now on @hsn.”
The collection currently includes five pieces – two one-pieces, one bottom and two tops – hovering in the $40 to $60 price range with sizes ranging from 2 to 24W.
And in celebrating the launch of her bathing suit line, we also want to accompany that with her wise words as a skin cancer survivor: “The sun is not your friend.”
Bethenny Frankel’s Cancer Journey
The Real Housewives of New York star was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2017 after noticing a spot on her face that was growing.
“I had a growth on my face that was enlarging. I guessed it to be a basal cell carcinoma and had it lanced and removed,” Frankel told PEOPLE in 2017. “The doctor confirmed it is indeed basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, and says while it is cancer, I am lucky to have it removed — so it won’t affect my overall health.”
For treatment, she underwent an operation called Mohs surgery followed by plastic surgery to address any scars. Mohs surgery is a microscopically-controlled surgery where thin layers of skin cancer tissue are removed until the surgeon reaches clear tissue in order to hopefully ensure that all the cancer is removed.
“You’re able to remove a very conservative margin around the cancer and study it in essentially real-time,” Dr. Sumaira Aasi, a Professor of Dermatology and Director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at Stanford, previously told SurvivorNet. “And we continue to repeat the process until the cancer is out.”
After treatment, Frankel was cancer-free and became an advocate for skin protection.
“I am extremely lucky to have caught it in time, and it just goes to show you have to know your body and be very aware of any changes,” she said. “This was a sharp reminder why it is so important that I religiously wear large hats to cover my face and reapply sunscreen.
“Always make sure to rub in spray-on sunscreen on your kids — spraying it on by itself doesn’t cover them enough. Apply it thoroughly every two hours and check the expiration dates as sunscreen does expire; and sit in the shade whenever possible.”
Understanding Skin Cancer
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common cancer in the United States.
Skin cancers more commonly occur on parts of the body that tend to get more sun like the face, head, neck and arms, but they can develop anywhere on the body – including places like the bottoms of your feet, your genitals and inside your mouth.
Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about how to best reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. Here are her top five ways to try to avoid the disease:
- Avoid sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the tops of our heads, the tops of our ears and the delicate area around the eye.
- Wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours or after excessive sweating or swimming.
- Have yearly skin checks (with a professional) because it’s difficult to evaluate areas all over the body.
- Avoid tanning beds. There are no “good” tanning beds, and they can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.
And though the upcoming summer months may require extra skin protection, it’s important to remember that you are, in fact, at risk of developing skin cancer all year round.
“My patients ask me all the time, ‘Do I really need sunscreen every day, all year round?’ The answer is yes,” Dr. Engelman previously told SurvivorNet. “People think they only need sun protection when they’re in the bright, warm sunshine. But the reality is, we can get sun damage at any time throughout the year, even in the cold, wintry months. Think about when you go skiing. That’s a very high risk. Even though it’s cold, our skin should be protected.”
What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and develops when basal cells, one of three main types of cells in the top layer of the skin, grow abnormally or uncontrollably.
One distinguishing factor of this type of skin cancer is that it tends to grow more slowly resulting in minimal damage and making it generally curable when caught and treated early.
The tricky thing, however, is that BCC can often be overlooked as a pimple or skin tag. They may appear as raised areas on the skin with pale, pink or red-ish colors, and they may also have abnormal blood vessels. No matter what, if you have a spot on your skin that seems abnormal or questionable, you should consult your doctor because BCC can look very different from person to person.
Generally speaking, BCC occurs when DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning triggers changes in basal cells. Because it most often develops on areas of the skin that are exposed to sun, it’s crucial to protect yourself from the sun in any way that you can.
No matter how vigilant you are about decreasing your risk for skin cancer, its important to still prioritize routine checkups with your dermatologist and always be on the lookout for any skin changes in between visits.