Why This Supermodel Is Spreading the Word About Sun Protection

May 8, 2024
A pair of brown sunglasses sits on a straw sun hat resting on a sandy beach

Photo by Olivier Darbonville on Unsplash

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May and year-round, skin cancer prevention advocates emphasize the importance of sun safety while enjoying the outdoors. Now this “Uptown Girl” is speaking out about it, too.


As we head into summer, there’s no better time than now to brush up on measures you can take to protect yourself from the sun’s powerful rays. 

In March, beloved model and actor Christie Brinkley announced on Instagram that she has been treated for basal cell carcinoma (BCC). She also explained how it was discovered. At the end of a dermatologist appointment for her daughter, Brinkley asked the doctor to examine a small bump on her own face. “He took a look and knew immediately it needed a biopsy,” Brinkley shared in her post. After the biopsy was performed, the results came back positive for BCC. 

"The good news for me is we caught [it] early," she wrote in her post. After its early detection, doctors at a skin surgery center were able to promptly remove the BCC.

Did You Know?

Christie Brinkley inspired the hit song “Uptown Girl,” written by her former husband, musician Billy Joel, four decades ago. Learn more about Brinkley and the famous song.


BCC, the most common type of skin cancer, causes a bump, lump, or lesion to form on the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). These formations may present as scaly, itchy, painful, shiny, surrounded by blood vessels, or fluid filled. BCCs often appear on areas of the body that are most frequently exposed to the sun. The face, nose, eyelids, legs, ears, and arms are common locations. 

Risk factors for BCC include:

  • frequent sunburns
  • using tanning beds 
  • a family history of skin cancer
  • spending a lot of time in the sun 

Other risk factors include having light skin tone, light colored eyes, and red or blond hair.

Treatment for BCC

When caught early, BCCs can be easily treated. They are typically treated with surgery or topical medications. However, a different treatment may be necessary depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors. 

Most superficial BCCs (not very deep) can be treated with medicated creams or gels applied directly to the skin. Consult your doctor about which treatment may be right for you.


Get More Details About Treatments for BCC 


Brinkley's Sun Safety Message to Her Fans

Brinkley — often remembered as the face of CoverGirl cosmetics in the 1980s — stressed the importance of skin protection while in the sun to help prevent skin cancer. In her Instagram post, Brinkley encouraged her fans to learn from her diagnosis: 

“The good news for you is that all of this can be avoided by being diligent with your sun protection!... I’ll be slathering on my SPF 30, reapplying as needed, wearing long sleeves and a wide brim hat. And doing regular total body checkups...that is a MUST!” 

Take these steps to protect your skin, shared by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
  • Protect yourself from sunrays by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad spectrum means it blocks both types of ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). 
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside with an SPF of 30 or higher. Do this even on cloudy days and in the winter.
  • Apply a thick layer of sunscreen, about 2 tablespoons, on your face and body.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling off, or sweating.
  • Get into the shade whenever possible.
  • Do not use indoor tanning machines.


Did You Know?

The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s best to avoid or limit your sun exposure during that time frame, if possible.

Christie Brinkley’s openness about her basal cell carcinoma diagnosis and treatment is a reminder that cancer can impact anyone and everyone. In the time since her diagnosis, she has used her platform to advocate for the importance of early detection and sun safety for skin cancer prevention. As Brinkley once shared in an Esquire magazine article, “The best beauty secret is sunblock.”