Woman's Skin Cancer Selfie Goes Viral

A 27-year-old showed Facebook the ugly side of tanning gone wrong.

Tawny Willoughby, a 27-year-old mother of a toddler, took to Facebook to show the world the ugly side of tanning gone wrong.

"If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!" she wrote. "This is what skin cancer treatment can look like."

The skin on her face is covered with angry, painful-looking scabs because she has used a treatment called Aldara, which goes by the generic name imiquimod, she wrote in the post.

"The reason it's so horrific is that the immune system is very powerful and what stimulates it to attack these abnormal cells really destroys them with a lot of inflammation," he said. "This picture represents the extent of her damage."

"It's a great message and it's a perfect example of what happens to you if you use -- in this case -- tanning beds," said Kenet, a dermatologist at New York-Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center.

But Dr. Neil Korman, a professor of dermatology at U.H. Case Medical Center who has not treated Willoughby, said he worries patients will shy away from this kind of treatment because Willoughby appears to have taken the photo on the worst day of her treatment, and she didn't mention that it's not painful.

"It's a standard therapy we use relatively routinely," Korman said. "Often, it doesn't feel anywhere near as bad as it looks."

Willoughby wrote that she tanned four to five times a week in high school and she has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma once and basal cell carcinoma five times since her first diagnosis at age 21. She wrote that she's lucky not to have melanoma, which can metastasize, but she's had cancer cut and scooped out, electrodissected, frozen with liquid nitrogen, surgically removed and killed with photodynamic therapy, which combines drugs and light therapy.

"Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it. Learn from other people's mistakes. 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."

Willoughby was not immediately available for comment.