Sunscreen is my favorite part of my 7 step skincare routine; as someone who is usually the lightest shade in any given foundation, I am not friends with the sun. I’ve been wearing SPF daily for at least five years, constantly wear sunglasses, and have a bit of a penchant for berets and baseball caps. I also pen skincare reviews almost daily and make sure to fit my annual skin screening in each February.
So, imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from my dermatologist saying my biopsy came back positive for skin cancer and I need to have Mohs surgery. I’d had my screening nearly two weeks before and she took a biopsy from a small, raised, reddish pink spot near my temple. I assumed it was negative when I didn’t hear back in the typical seven day window.
Having a biopsy isn’t too concerning; most doctors prefer to err on the side of cautious over-testing than risk missing a possible issue. I’ve had four biopsies taken over the past decade and all were negative. However, skin cancer has run in my family for generations and I’m sprinkled with freckles and moles, so annual screens are necessary. My parents have had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) unfortunately. From their experiences, I learned about the different types of skin cancer and thankfully wasn’t terrified when I was diagnosed with BCC, the most common form.
Still, I’ve been questioning my diligence around reapplying sunscreen throughout the day and wondering if maybe my chemical exfoliants or (infrequent) retinol usage caused this. I’ve taken a step back from blogging because being diagnosed with BCC made me feel like a bit of a failure as a “skincare expert.” How could I possibly share my opinions and recommendations when my own defense routine let me down?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, BCC is “usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.” That means over the course of a period of time. Forgetting sunscreen once last September didn’t cause my skin cancer; I’ve had that spot on my temple for at least a couple years. No routine is a perfect shield and my genes are already vulnerable to skin cancer despite what I’ve done to minimize sun damage. In other words, this is not my fault. I’m a skincare blogger and having skin cancer doesn’t make me a failure. Noticing that the spot changed colors over the past few months and scheduling my appointment makes me proactive in supplementing my daily defense. We all should be more proactive when it comes to our skin, especially considering that non-melanoma skin cancers are the most frequent cancer diagnosis in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.
My Mohs surgery is scheduled for a couple weeks from now (planned around an overseas trip or I would have done it sooner!) and should completely remove the cancerous cells and hardly leave a scar after it heals. If you take one piece of advice from any of the hundreds of posts I’ve written, please make an appointment for your annual skin screening.