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Richard Simmons says a 'strange looking bump' under his eye was skin cancer. What is basal cell carcinoma?

The fitness expert, 75, says he was diagnosed "many years ago" but shared his story to encourage fans not to ignore suspicious spots.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Richard Simmons shared his experience with skin cancer with fans. (Image via Getty Images)
Richard Simmons shared his experience with skin cancer with fans. (Image via Getty Images)

A "strange looking bump" under Richard Simmons's right eye turned out to be a common form of skin cancer.

On Tuesday, the 75-year-old fitness expert took to Facebook to share with followers that he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. However, after fans expressed concern, the star clarified that he was diagnosed "many years ago." Simmons said he visited his dermatologist after a small "bump" that looked like a "blemish" under his eye wouldn't go away.

"I sat in his chair and he looked at it through a magnifying mirror," Simmons wrote. "He told me he would have to scrape it and put it under the microscope. Now, I am getting a little bit nervous. He comes back about 20 minutes later and says the 'C' word. 'You have cancer.'"

Simmons was instructed to visit a "cancer doctor" and went to visit . Inside the waiting room, Simmons took note of the other patients.

"I was shocked to see all of the skin cancers that they had," he penned. "Some had cancer on top of their heads...their face ...and their neck."

Richard Simmons said he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. (Image via Getty Images)
Richard Simmons said he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. (Image via Getty Images)

Simmons said the doctor told him he needed to burn his "skin to remove the cancer cells."

"There was no numbing it just had to be done with a small instrument. As he started burning my skin, a tear dropped down my cheek. You can't cry during this and he wiped my tear. The burning really hurt my skin. It lasted about 30 minutes."

The "Sweatin' to the Oldies" creator, who has been a recluse since 2014, said he was told to come back to the office after an hour and a half, and received "sad news" that they needed to do another procedure. While he ended the post with a "to be continued," Simmons added onto the story on Wednesday, telling his supporters a "third time was a charm" and that all the cancer had been removed.

"Before I left, he checked my arms, my back, my chest and my legs. I had a little Frankenstein under my right eye for a while. He gave me some cream to put on it which I did religiously. Because of his fine work, I don't have a scar," Simmons shared.

Fitness expert Richard Simmons has been a recluse since 2014. (Image via Getty Images)
Fitness expert Richard Simmons has been a recluse since 2014. (Image via Getty Images)

Simmons ended that post with some encouraging words to fans: "I know some of you reading this have had cancer or have known someone in your life who has had cancer. Promise me you will see your doctor and get a complete check up."

In a separate message to fans, Simmons revealed that he had been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma "so many years ago."

"The reason I wrote these two messages is that if you see a spot on your body please go to your doctor ... so they can diagnose it right away," he added. "I guess I should be more careful about what I write about."


What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) accounts for approximately 75 to 80 per cent of skin cancers. It begins in basal cells, which are located on the bottom of the epidermis and divide to form new skin cells. BCC is a slow-growing, non-melanoma form of skin cancer that usually presents on areas of the body often exposed to the sun, like the head, neck, face and arms. When detected early, BCC has a high-survival rate and is considered treatable. However, when left untreated, BCC can spread to nearby areas of the body, such as the cartilage and skin.


What does basal cell carcinoma look like?

While melanoma typically begins as dark or asymmetrical moles, BCC often looks like a sore that won't heal. BCC can appear as sores that bleed or won't heal, raised or scaly red patches, a growth that itches, pale white or yellow flat areas that look like scars, or a pink growth with raised edges. They can also look like translucent or skin-coloured bump or a black, blue or brown lesion with a translucent border.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. (Image via Getty Images)
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. (Image via Getty Images)

How do you treat basal cell carcinoma?

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and non-surgical treatments like cryotherapy are a few of the treatment options for BCC depending on the stage of cancer.

Even with treatment, it's possible for BCC to reoccur, and it does increase your risk of developing other skin cancers.


Who is at risk for basal cell carcinoma?

Anyone can develop skin cancer, but there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

  • chronic sun exposure without protective clothing or sunscreen

  • indoor tanning

  • family history of skin cancer

  • light coloured skin, hair and eyes

  • weakened immune system

  • previous radiation therapy

  • hereditary conditions that make you vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation


How do you protect yourself against skin cancer?

Wearing sunscreen that's SPF 30 or higher year round, along with protective clothing like hats, sunglasses and long sleeve clothing in light fabric, are some of the best ways to protect yourself against skin cancer. Other ways to protect yourself are to avoid tanning and limit sun exposure when the sun is at its strongest, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Moreover, be sure to do body checks for any moles or spots that look suspicious or have changed in appearance. Visit a dermatologist or your health-care provider if there are any areas that may cause concern.

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