Woman’s skin cancer selfie brings awareness to tanners

A selfie taken by 27-year-old Tawny Willoughby has gone viral and reveals the dangers of sun exposure through traditional means and artificial means. Tanning in a U.V. bed has become commonplace in modern society, but the risks associated with it have been long-known as sometimes catastrophic. She said in a caption while posting the picture to Facebook, “If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!” For those who were observing her trying and ongoing battle with cancer, that had already spanned 6 years, it was an instant hit online – and immediately went viral.

The photo she posted revealed what someones face can look like when skin cancer treatments take place. She continued in the post, “This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.” She went on to point out that treatments can oftentimes be debilitating and overwhelmingly challenging. In her situation, she said that she was fortunate to not have a more severe form of skin cancer than the forms she had. While they were challenging, and could be life threatening, they were not as severe as melanoma, which is by far the most deadly type of skin cancer.

Photo: Tawny Willoughby
Photo: Tawny Willoughby

She was first diagnosed when she was 21-years-old, and said that she tanned artificially – in a tanning bed – throughout her high school career. In another part of her post, which she later elaborated on more specifically, said that, “I go to the dermatologist every 6-12 months and usually have a skin cancer removed at each checkup.” The severity of the image though is really caused by her immune system acting the abnormal cells throughout the impacted region.

Dr. Barney Kenet, who is a dermatologist that has treated Willoughby pointed out that, “The reason it’s so horrific is that the immune system is very powerful and what stimulates it to attack these abnormal cells really destroys them with a lot of inflammation,” he said. “This picture represents the extent of her damage.” He went on to point out that, “It’s a great message and it’s a perfect example of what happens to you if you use — in this case — tanning beds.” This is a message that many dermatologists and medical professionals as a whole have advocated for, for years.

Preventing these types of cancers ultimately come down to being responsible with the human body and understanding the limits of that body. Those who tan over long periods of time can sometimes experience really negative reactions. Moreover, this points to addressing the issues around skin treatment and medical helpfulness. These issues are not going away, and whether you’re exposing yourself to artificial light, or raw sunlight – the results can be catastrophic for those who encounter it.

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  • reminds me of a funny question I had once from an Indian programmer “why do white people want to be brown?”