On The Real Housewives of Orange County, you faced a serious health threat. What happened?
My doctor found a malignant mole -- a shallow melanoma in early stages -- on my thigh, a few inches above my knee. I've faced skin cancer before, but I never intended to share this "reality" on the show. Now, I'm glad I did. Since the show has aired, several people have told me they've gotten their skin checked because of me -- and it thrills me to hear it.
If you've had skin cancer, you don't need to stay indoors and read a book while everyone else is out riding a bike or at a ball game. You do need to be extra careful in the sun, though.
"We want to encourage a healthy lifestyle," says Lisa Chipps, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
But once you've had a skin cancer, she says, you're more likely to have another. If you've had a melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, you're nine times more likely to have a new one...
At age 27 -- 17 years ago. I went in for acne treatments and my doctor gasped. He removed 22 moles from my body. He tested them all, and one came back malignant.
Were you a sun worshipper when you were young?
I got a tremendous amount of sun exposure as a child. All the damage was done before I was 25.
You write on your Bravo blog that you had an eye sewn shut for two months after half of your lower eyelid was removed due to skin cancer. Tell us about this experience.
I had a tiny tumor near my tear duct. It was not malignant, but I still tell everyone: Wear sunglasses! Make sure your children wear sunglasses! Protect your eyes!
How much has changed in the last two decades, in terms of prevention and treatment of skin cancers?
Not enough. It will take someone like Brad Pitt getting melanoma to get the kind of funding needed to get the research done that this cancer needs.
Any advice for other mothers trying to keep their families safe from UV rays?
When my kids were little, it wasn't hard keeping them covered up. Now they want to be at the beach with their friends -- and not look dorky in long sleeves. But there are companies that make cute clothes that have sunscreen built into the fabrics. Also, be creative. Don't tell your teenager she can't go to the beach. Instead, plan an indoor activity for her and her friends -- like going to a cool sushi bar or a museum -- then take them to the beach after 4 p.m. Watch the sunset together.