Former Rep. Brian Bilbray of California and his youngest daughter, Briana, share more than family ties and a love of the outdoors. They both have been diagnosed with skin cancer and are speaking out about it to encourage others to prevent and detect skin cancer early.
"Being tan was a big part of my life," Briana, 25, said. "Being in San Diego, it was the look."
Briana’s family encouraged her to bring to her doctor’s attention a mole on her shin. Briana postponed the appointment. In spring 2011, she was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. She has since relapsed twice. The most recent relapse required radiation treatments, which she underwent in April 2012.
"Until something’s done and they find a treatment that can stop this disease, I am going to be going through this probably the rest of my life," Briana said."The pain that I am putting my family through because of my negligence is the worst feeling in the world, and all I had to do was wear sunscreen."
— Briana Bilbray
Just two weeks after Briana’s diagnosis, her father was diagnosed with another form of skin cancer — squamous cell carcinoma — which appeared as a white patch on his lip. The former congressman had surgery to remove the cancer and an additional surgery to reconstruct his lip.
"It’s absolutely essential that everyone understand it’s our job to detect skin cancer," Mr. Bilbray said. "Whenever you’re in doubt, go talk to a board-certified dermatologist. Find out about it."
Board-certified dermatologist Daniel M. Siegel, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, said, "Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, so it’s vitally important that people wear sunscreen, cover up and seek shade. Skin cancer is a serious health matter in this country and hopefully the Bilbray family’s story will serve as a wake-up call for people to protect their skin."