Jesse Tyler Ferguson is reminding people to keep up with their skin cancer screenings and sun protection after a skin cancer scare. In a new Instagram post, the actor shared a photo of himself at the office of his dermatologist after getting a cancerous mole removed.
“Reminder to stay up to date on your dermatology checks…especially if you’re fair like me,” Ferguson captioned the photo, in which he is sporting a small bandage on the side of his neck, right behind his jaw. Ferguson explained that his dermatologist performs some kind of skin removal at every office visit, and that this time they excised a cancerous growth.
“I always wind up getting something taken from me, every time I go,” he said. “Today, they took a bit of skin cancer that they found. Don’t worry, I got it early and I’m gonna be just fine.” He urged people to wear sunscreen, joking that he uses “SPF 1000.”
Ferguson is correct that fair-skinned individuals need to be especially vigilant about protecting themselves from skin cancer, which is the most common kind of cancer in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). People of any skin tone or ethnicity can experience skin damage, sunburns, and skin cancer from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, but people with light skin are more likely to be affected, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Fair individuals are more vulnerable than darker skin to sunburns (which increase your risk of skin cancer) because they have less melanin in their skin, a pigment that helps block out some damaging UV rays, the ACS explains.
That said, anyone can experience skin damage and skin cancer—no matter their natural skin tone, and whether or not they burn (or tan). In fact, people of color often receive a diagnosis at a later stage, when the cancer is more difficult to treat, according to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And as SELF reports, people with skin of color are also more likely than people with white skin to die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Other skin cancer risk factors include having a lot of moles, irregular or large moles, freckles, a tendency to burn before tanning, a history of using tanning beds, a history of blistering sunburns, and a family or personal history of skin cancer or unusual moles, according to the NCI.
Everybody needs to protect their skin from the sun. Evidence supports using sunscreen (minimum SPF 30, broad-spectrum, water-resistant), seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing (hats, long sleeves, and pants) to minimize skin damage due to UV rays and reduce your risk of skin cancer, according to the AAD.
Although there are no official screening timeline guidelines, it’s generally a good idea to be aware of what’s going on with your skin so that you’ll notice if there’s a worrying change. The AAD has tips and tools for conducting a thorough self-exam, during which you’ll inspect all of the skin on your body for potential signs of skin cancer, like atypical moles or certain changes in your skin.
Your dermatologist can also perform skin cancer screenings, which may be especially important if you have those risk factors that make skin cancer more likely. If your doctor finds anything abnormal during a screening (or after you bring it to their attention), they may remove the tissue and perform a biopsy on it to see if it’s cancerous.
How do you know if you’re due for a screening? Some experts recommend that people with risk factors see their dermatologist to get screened for skin cancer annually, while the average person with no risk factors might get screened every two or three years. If you’re not sure what makes sense for you, you should check with your doctor or dermatologist for guidance.