Sun Protection Becomes Priority for Survivor of Basal Cell Carcinoma

photo of Bonneda Kallan

Basal cell carcinoma survivor Bonneda Kallan, 44, says if she could go back in time, she’d make some different choices to avoid damaging her skin.

From the time she was a teenager in high school, Kallan occasionally used a tanning bed before special occasions like prom. Half Korean and half Caucasian, Kallan has olive tones to her skin, and when she was young she thought nothing of staying out in the sun all day without using sunscreen. At age 25, she went on a ski trip and came back with 2nd degree burns on her face. A few years later, she developed a mole under one eye.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds cause most skin cancer, and although people with the fairest skin tones have the highest risk, anybody can get it. Kallan says failing to protect your skin from UV rays will eventually cause skin problems. “You may not see it now, but in five to 10 years, you will probably have moles, wrinkles, splotches, irregularities, or other skin damage,” said Kallan. “It eventually happens. It doesn’t matter what kind of skin you have.”

Over time, Kallan noticed changes in the mole under her eye. It became itchy and grew bigger. She knew that changes in a mole meant it could be dangerous and needed to be checked out, so she went to a dermatologist. The doctor ordered a biopsy of the mole and removed it. A few days later, she called Kallan and told her she had basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer.

After that, Kallan had to go back to the doctor frequently for skin checks. As time went on with no recurrence of the cancer, she was able to go longer between visits. The doctor also told Kallan what to look for, including spots or moles that are new or changed, have an irregular shape, have edges that aren’t clear, are not all one color, or are big (larger than about ¼ inch across).

And since then, she says she has been “religious” about protecting herself and her family from getting too much sun. “I drench myself in sunscreen, and I reapply it often. I wear big ugly hats to the pool and when I run,” said Kallan. “Knowing what I know now – I could have avoided a lot of problems.”

"I drench myself in sunscreen, and I reapply it often. I wear big ugly hats to the pool and when I run. Knowing what I know now, I could have avoided a lot of problems."

Bonneda Kallan

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Have you or someone you love been touched by cancer? Help us give hope to people across the country and around the world by sharing your story. It's stories like yours that provide comfort and courage to others whose lives have been touched by cancer.

Share your story.

 


American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.