Beautiful woman’s grisly selfie is her cautionary tale about tanning beds

A young woman who’s learned the hard way how dangerous tanning can be is opening her private life as a warning to others.

Tawny Willoughby said it was normal where she was raised in Kentucky to use a tanning bed almost daily.

“I had my own personal tanning bed in my home and so did a lot of my friends growing up … everyone tanned,” she told CNN. “I didn’t really even think about the future or skin cancer at the time.”

She became aware of the dangers at age 21 while in nursing school when one of her friends was diagnosed with melanoma.

Soon after her friend’s diagnosis, Willoughby made her first dermatologist appointment. The doctor found she had skin cancer.

Photo credit Tawny Willoughby.
Photo credit Tawny Willoughby.

Now that she’s 27, she said, she goes to the dermatologist every six months and usually has a cancerous growth removed each visit.

So far she has had basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once.

A month ago, in an effort to warn others of the dangers of tanning, she shared a selfie she took after one of her cancer treatments which has been shared more than 50,000 times.

“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like,” she wrote in a message attached to the photo. “Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it.”

Photo credit Tawny Willoughby.
Photo credit Tawny Willoughby.

“Learn from other people’s mistakes,” she added. “Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two-year-old little boy of my own.”

But, as she told CNN, she never expected her message to go as far as it has.

“I’ve lost count of how many people shared it now and told me I’ve helped them,” Willoughby said. “It’s really cool to hear people say they won’t tan anymore. I’ve had mothers thank me after sharing my pictures with their daughters. People in my hometown said they are selling their tanning beds.”


Bloomberg targets tanning salons.


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