This Alabama woman’s graphic selfie sends a powerful message about the dangers of tanning beds, and has gone viral with more than 60,000 shares on Facebook.
Tawny Willoughby, 27, said it was normal in her town to go tanning four or five times a week, CNN reported. But after one of her nursing school classmates was diagnosed with melanoma, she decided to make a dermatology appointment.
That’s when she discovered that she, too, had skin cancer at the age of 21. Now, Willoughby goes to the dermatologist every six to 12 months, and typically gets cancerous skin removed. She has had basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once.
In April, she decided to share a post-treatment selfie as a cautionary tale of what tanning beds can do.
The image shows her face covered in bloody scabs. It was taken
Tanning beds raise risks of skin cancer
after receiving a treatment called Aldara, a cream used to trigger an immune system response to kill abnormal cells in patients with non-melanoma skin cancers, ABC News reported.
“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like,” she wrote in the caption. “Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it.”
Cosmopolitan notes that the image was reported to Facebook for graphic violence, but it’s has had plenty of impact on viewers.
“I’ve lost count of how many people shared it now and told me I’ve helped them,” she told CNN. “It’s really cool to hear people say they won’t tan anymore. I’ve had mothers thank me after sharing my pictures with their daughters. People in my hometown said they are selling their tanning beds.”
She said she never thought about tanning in high school because it was just “normal” to her, but now she wants to warn others.
“Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two-year-old little boy of my own,” she wrote in the caption, adding, “Don’t be a statistic!”
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. are linked to indoor tanning each year.
My face cancers came from exposure to heavy exposure to sun in my youth.