Childhood Sun Exposure Could Cause Skin Cancer

June 2, 2006 - Posted at 7:42 p.m. CST

DONIPHAN, MO -- In a recent poll by Redbook magazine, 70% of women admit to skipping using sunscreen some or all of the time. As adults we know better, but could our actions as children play havoc on our health years later? One Region 8 woman from Southeast Missouri is now suffering the consequences of a carefree youth.

"I woke up with blood spots on my pillow. I had a hole that was about the size of the end of a pencil on the end of my nose on the bridge of my nose and it kind of looked like a pimple," said Laura Hagood.

Doctors diagnosed Hagood with a spider bite. But when the spot returned five months later, she went to a dermatologist, where she learned she had basal cell carcinoma...or skin cancer.

"I think it was just a numbing, shocking, devastating feeling. I just think the "C" word alone," said Hagood.

She underwent surgery in 2001 and 2002 to remove the cancerous cells on her nose.

"I had two different plastic surgeons. It took two days of surgery and I had over 100 stitches in my face. It took a year for it to heal," said Hagood, "The second surgery that I had after a year of healing, they went in and broke my nose on both sides, shaved cartilage on both sides of my nose and then did a cartilage graph on both sides and it was very painful."

Hagood was 29 when she was diagnosed. Doctors told her the cancer was caused from exposure to the sun as a teenager.

"I've never been a sun worshiper. I have never laid in the tanning bed year round. I've never tubed on the river a great deal. I've done all of that in moderation," said Hagood, "I just never wore a lot of sunscreen as a child and they feel like that this was something that I did when I was probably around 10 or 15 years old. It usually takes around 20 years for skin cancer to appear, so they feel like this was something I did as a child."

Now at 34, Hagood is the mother of a two-year-old daughter. Little Lexus knows the drill.

"We use sunscreen every time she goes outside and she wears a cap and I don't go outside unless I have a visor or cap on," said Hagood as she put SPF 45 on her daughter.

But Hagood's battle with skin cancer isn't over. Just this week, doctors removed more cancerous cells from her left breast.

"It's very scary and you know, I feel like I'm a fanatic about it now. My doctors feel like that I have reason to be proactive," said Hagood, "I feel like now that God has put me in this position for a reason and I have to use this to my ability to educate people."

But it's a lesson learned the hard way.

"As far as monetary it has not, as far as looks-wise, it has been...but looks aren't everything. I feel like God has a plan for me on this and I don't know what it is yet," said Hagood through tears.

Hagood's insurance company has picked up the bill for most of her medical costs. Today she is cancer free, but never goes outside without wearing her prescription sunscreen, which costs up to $75 dollars for 3 ounces.