Gov. Gary Herbert revealed Wednesday that he is undergoing treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, a common and treatable form of skin cancer.
The 71-year-old Republican appeared at a school groundbreaking Wednesday morning with a bandage under his right eye. He had undergone treatment Tuesday and said the cancer, which is not life threatening, was detected during a routine checkup with his dermatologist.
“He did the work and we’re just following up on some treatments now,” Herbert said.
Herbert’s office said he had the skin removed March 20, and his recent treatment was for complications with infection. He has an additional treatment scheduled Thursday morning, which prompted him to cancel his monthly news conference on KUED.
Herbert said he has had two other treatments for basal cell skin cancer — one on his head and one on his chest.
Squamous and basal cell carcinomas are the two most common types of cancer, according to Dr. Mark Hyde with the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“They’re both much less dangerous than melanoma” — the most aggressive form of skin cancer, Hyde said, “but certainly not without their risks.”
The standard treatment for squamous cell carcinoma is surgical removal of the skin or growth.
Hyde said it’s possible Herbert underwent what is called Mohs surgery, which he described as a “conservative but curing” procedure in which the surgeon removes small pieces of tissue one at a time, checking each one under a microscope in order to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible.
Utah has the highest rates of melanoma in the nation, largely due to the state’s high altitude and large fair-skinned population.
Damage from sunlight and UV rays increases risk of skin cancer, and Hyde said limiting sun and UV exposure is “the only risk factor we have any control over.”
The governor encouraged students at the school groundbreaking to always wear sunscreen when spending time outdoors. Herbert said he was an avid baseball player as a teenager and was in the sun “all the time.”
“We’ve learned about the exposure to sun, particularly for those of us who are a little more fair skinned,” he said. “I’m paying the price now of not understanding that when I was 10 or 12.”