Hugh Jackman has been treated for skin cancer three times. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
It’s safe to assume that these days, Hugh Jackman won’t leave the house without wearing sunscreen. According to his rep, the Australian actor has just been treated for basal cell carcinoma—for the third time in less than a year. Jackman might be healthy now, but he’ll need to remain extra vigilant.
Jackman’s first treatment happened in November 2013, followed by a second treatment in May of this year. Although basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal, it is the most common form of skin cancer. “To be clear, it is skin cancer,” Jackman told E! after his second treatment. “But you do need to take care of it immediately because it’s growing.”
Related: The 30-minute sunscreen rule
Dr. Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, Senior Vice President of The Skin Cancer Foundation, says, “The problem is that even though basal cell carcinoma typically doesn’t spread to another part of the body, it can be very aggressive locally,” she says. “If it’s near a critical area like the eyes or nose, it can be deforming.” That’s because the cancerous cells multiply over time. “When the cells start growing unchecked, it looks like a sore that won’t heal,” she says. “And it doesn’t go away.”
As in Jackman’s case, most basal cell carcinomas begin with a sore that won’t heal—usually on areas of the skin that get sun exposure, like the ears and nose. “It can scab over, but it will always fester in the same place,” Sarnoff says. “If you keep seeing a spot healing, then not healing, in the same area for three or four weeks, that’s a warning sign.” (Jackman’s wife discovered his first basal cell carcinoma; she encouraged him to have an unusual scab inspected.)
After his ordeal, Jackman, who didn’t wear sunscreen while growing up, now encourages people to slap on SPF to avoid developing skin cancer. “I’m realistic about the future and it’s more than likely that I’ll have at least one more, but probably many more,” Jackman told the Associated Press in May. “But the beauty of this is it’s all preventable, it’s just about getting proper check-ups.”
According to Sarnoff, once you’ve had a basal cell carcinoma, you’re likely to get others. That’s why it’s so important to be diligent about protection. “Hugh Jackman is fair, he’s Australian, and he’s had a lifetime of doing outdoor activities,” she says. “So he needs to protect with sunscreen with a high SPF, something over 30.”
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses is also essential, as is seeking out shade and avoiding the sun between 10am and 4pm. “All of those things make a difference,” Sarnoff says. “You can still be outdoors, but seek the shade.”
Seems like Jackman has already internalized the message of sun safety. Yesterday, he shared a picture on Instagram. The caption: “SUNSCREEN!” Here’s to his health—and yours.