WWE star Alexa Bliss shares basal cell carcinoma diagnosis. Dermatologists weigh in on this common cancer.

Lexi Cabrera, aka Alexa Bliss of the WWE, shares her skin cancer story. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for dcp)
Lexi Cabrera, aka Alexa Bliss of the WWE, shares her skin cancer story. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for dcp)

World Wrestling Entertainment star Lexi Cabrera is opening up about her skin-cancer scare.

Cabrera, who performs for the WWE under the name Alexa Bliss, took to Twitter this week to clarify an Instagram Story she had posted which revealed a scar on her face. She captioned her Instagram post, "Dear younger me, You should have stayed out of tanning beds. All clear now though! Thank you @americanskininstitute for taking great care of me!"

When a fan on Twitter expressed well wishes for Cabrera, the wrestler tweeted back, “Thank you! Don’t worry, short healing time. Always get your skin checked! Esp if you are in the sun or use tanning beds! Lol.”

In a follow-up tweet, she described the circumstances around the surgery.

“There was a spot on my face yes — that had gotten worse,” she wrote. “So went to get biopsy. Was basal cell carcinoma. During my procedure doc also found other squamous cells. Was a quick and easy procedure. Glad I always get my skin checked.”

So, what is basal cell carcinoma?

According to dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell, BCC is "the most common skin cancer in the nation." Around two million people are diagnosed with it each year. Though it can affect people of all skin types, it is most common in lighter-skinned individuals.

“When detected early, this skin cancer is highly treatable and has a good prognosis,” Dr. Mitchell tells Yahoo Life. This is what happened recently when President Joe Biden had a BCC lesion safely removed.

Squamous cell carcinoma, meanwhile, which Cabrera also showed signs of, is the second most common form of skin cancer in the U.S., accounting for about 15 percent of all skin cancers.

How do you know if you may have basal cell carcinoma?

According to Mitchell, “the classic appearance of BCC is a smooth, pink, pearly lesion with rolled borders.”

However, this is not the only way BCC presents itself. “Any skin lesion that is not healing or bleeding easily over extended periods of time raises concern for skin cancer,” she notes. “If skin cancer is suspected, a dermatologist should be seen for appropriate evaluation and potential biopsy.”

Dr. Hamza Bhatti of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City says to look for the "ABCDs" of dermatology — asymmetry, border, color and diameter. Warning signs of suspicious lesions include irregular shaped moles, bleeding or oozing from a sore, a scaly patch of skin, and lumpy/bumpy irritated areas

Surgery is not always needed for BCC.

“Treatment of BCC will depend greatly on the stage and depth of the lesion,” Mitchell notes. “One treatment option for BCC is surgical excision of the lesion. This is the most common treatment and allows for complete removal of the skin cancer with clear margins, especially in a BCC that extends to the peripheral and/or deep tissue. Another option for treatment of BCC is topical treatments such as 5-fluorouracil or imiquimod in a lesion that is superficial and does not extend to the deep tissue.”

Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, a dermatologist and a spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation, adds that when surgery is necessary, Mohs micrographic surgery is typically the most effective technique.

"It has highest cure rates and best cosmetic outcomes," he notes. "Mohs may be appropriate for certain types of BCCs, in certain individuals, including the immunocompromised, and in cosmetically and functionally important areas such as the head and neck, hands, feet, or genitalia. This technique is specifically recommended for BCCs that are large, aggressive, rapidly growing, that have indistinct edges, or have recurred after previous treatment."

How can one avoid basal cell carcinoma?

Cabrera’s warning about tanning beds is vital, according to Dr. Mitchell, who says “there is no such thing as a safe tan,” indoors or outdoors. In fact, tanning can raise your risk of BCC by 24%. Using tanning beds before age 20 can also increase your chances of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, by 47% — and the risk increases with each use.

Yet it’s not just purposeful tanning that one should be concerned about, but sun exposure in general.

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, adds, "You can’t change your genetics, but you can control your lifestyle and environment. Make sure to protect yourself from the sun. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection and the words 'broad-spectrum' on the bottle. This means it will protect you from both UVB and UVA rays."

He says to apply a "shot glass amount for your entire sun exposed skin" and to make sure to "reapply every two hours or immediately after heavy sweating or swimming."

"While sunscreen application is important, sun protective behavior is just as important," he adds. "Avoid peaks on during the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, sit in the shade when possible and wear SPF protecting clothing, hats and sunglasses."

Another way to make sure you’re all good?

"Visit a board-certified dermatologist annually for a total body skin check," Dr. Zeichner stresses. "Early detection can save your life."

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