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Cancer Survivor Hugh Jackman Urges You to Do This to Prevent the Disease

This simple preventative measure could literally save your life.

One of the most popular leading men in Hollywood, Hugh Jackman has taken on every genre from superhero blockbuster to musical. Best known for his work on the X-Men franchise, Les Miserables, The Prestige, and more, the Australian A-lister has most recently taken to the Broadway stage to star in a highly anticipated revival of The Music Man. Yet for all of his many achievements over the last decade, Jackman has endured a personal struggle behind the scenes: a recurring battle against basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. Now, the actor is urging others to take one important precaution, which he says could have prevented his own health woes. Read on to find out the one thing Jackman hopes his fans will do, and why it's so crucial to your cancer risk.

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Jackman has fought skin cancer more than once.

Hugh Jackman
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Montblanc

Jackman was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2013, and news outlets report that the star has battled the disease six times to date. The actor has been open with the public during each health episode, thanking his doctors, family, friends, and fans for their care and support. "Another basal cell carcinoma. Thanks to frequent checks & amazing doctors, all's well," the actor tweeted in 2017.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in the U.S., accounting for roughly 80 percent of all skin cancer cases, experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine write. These malignant growths may look like a "wart, crusty spot, reddish patch, mole, nodule or bump, or a sore that does not heal," the health organization explains. Given the broad range of possible appearances associated with basal cell carcinoma, it's important to bring any persistent skin lesion to a dermatologist's attention.

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The actor now urges others to wear sunscreen.

Hugh Jackman
James Devaney/GC Images via Getty Images

With a social media following of over 30 million, Jackman has been vocal in advocating that others take preventative measures against skin cancer. In particular, he says he believes wearing sunscreen as a child could have prevented his own diagnoses.

In 2021 after his most recent biopsy, the actor posted a video to Instagram urging others to do just that. "I just want to let you know, I just went to see… my amazing dermatologists and doctors, and they saw something that was a little irregular," the Wolverine star said, sporting a bandage across his nose. "So they took a biopsy, and they're getting it checked." Jackman added that while his doctors were optimistic about this particular growth being benign, it was an important reminder for others to "go and get a check and wear sunscreen. Don't be like me as a kid, just wear sunscreen," he told his fans.

In 2016, he shared a similar message with his fans after a separate biopsy. "An example of what happens when you don't wear sunscreen. Basal Cell. The mildest form of cancer but serious, nonetheless. PLEASE USE SUNSCREEN and get regular check-ups," he wrote at the time.

This form of cancer can be "locally aggressive," experts say.

Hugh Jackman at Cancer Benefit
Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Philly Fights Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs, and is considered highly treatable. However, Johns Hopkins experts warn that it can also be "locally aggressive"—meaning once you develop one skin lesion, you're likely to develop more around the same area of the body.

"Basal cell carcinoma is not something to be taken lightly," Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation, writes. "Once you've been diagnosed with a BCC, it's very likely that you will develop more over the years, leading to continuous treatment and possibly even disfiguration." Because basal cell carcinoma is often the result of intense sun exposure, they often occur on highly visible parts of the body. You're most likely to develop BCC on your face, ears, nose, neck, shoulders, or back.

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Taking these precautions can keep you safe from skin cancer.

Hugh Jackman at The Music Man Opening
Noam Galai/WireImage via Getty Images

Regularly applying a generous amount of high SPF sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside can greatly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer over time. Reapply every two hours that you're in the sun, and be especially careful at the beach where water and sand can reflect the sun's rays intensely, warns the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

In addition to wearing sunscreen, there are several other ways to help prevent skin cancer. ASCO recommends limiting your time in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and covering up with protective clothing when possible. This includes high-coverage clothing made with tightly woven fabrics, hats, and sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UV protection.

And, because prevention is only one piece of the puzzle, you should also go for regular checkups with your doctor or dermatologist. As Jackman has warned his fans after his most recent run in with cancer, "don't think it can't happen to you."

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more