Duchess of York Diagnosed with Melanoma Following Breast Reconstruction Surgery

By Steve Blanchard - January 30, 2024

Sarah Ferguson was diagnosed with skin cancer after several moles caught the attention of her dermatologist. The Duchess of York was treated for breast cancer last year and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery in June.

According to her spokesperson, Ferguson’s dermatologist asked that several moles be removed to be analyzed at the same time of her reconstructive surgery. One of those was found to malignant melanoma.

“Clearly, another diagnosis so soon after treatment for breast cancer has been distressing” for the duchess, the spokesperson said.

Doing a biopsy on suspect moles is a common procedure for plastic surgeons, according to Dr. Deniz Dayicioglu, a reconstructive surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center.

"Not only do we get those requests to perform a biopsy, but there are also times that we may encourage a patient to get something suspect checked by a dermatologist or even ask permission to biopsy it."

- Dr. Deniz Dayicioglu, Breast Oncology Program

“Not only do we get those requests to perform a biopsy, but there are also times that we may encourage a patient to get something suspect checked by a dermatologist or even ask permission to biopsy it,” she said.

The risk of being diagnosed with melanoma increases with age, but it’s also one of the most common cancers in adolescents and young adults. Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of skin color or age.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 100,600 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2024. Melanoma makes up only about 1% of all skin cancers but is the leading cause of deaths among skin cancers. The society estimates 8,300 Americans will die from the disease this year.

While those numbers are unsettling, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves from melanoma and all skin cancers, according to Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair of Moffitt’s Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

Sondak recommends all people, regardless of race, stay out of the sun when the ultraviolet intensity is its greatest in the middle of the day and says wearing a full-brimmed hat, not just a baseball hat, is the best way to stay protected.

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"You have to remember to protect your ears and neck."

- Dr. Vernon Sondak, Cutaneous Oncology Program

“You have to remember to protect your ears and neck,” he said.

He also suggests wearing protective clothing to cover what you can and use sunscreen on exposed areas like your face and hands.

Since the news of Ferguson’s melanoma diagnosis was shared earlier this month, Great Britain’s National Health Service website has seen a huge surge in traffic from users researching the diagnosis.

Throughout both cancer diagnoses, the duchess has encouraged women to keep getting checked for any forms of cancer.

“The Duchess wants to thank the entire medical team which has supported her, particularly her dermatologist whose vigilance ensured the illness was detected when it was,” her spokesperson said. “She believes her experience underlines the importance of checking the size, shape, color and texture and emergence of new moles that can be a sign of melanoma.”

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