Jane Fonda Gets Candid about her Battle with Cancer

Jane Fonda reveals ongoing cancer ‘process’

There’s something to be said for the glamourous life – the sun, the sand … the skin cancer. Just ask actress and former fashion model Jane Fonda. “I’ve had a lot of cancer,” she says. “I was a sun-worshipper. When I have a day off, I frequently go to my skin doctor and have things cut off me by a surgeon.”

Fonda, 81, tells of her brushes with cancer in the latest issue of British Vogue.

Fashionistas remember the 2016 Golden Globes. Fonda, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Youth, wore a high-necked, white, and ruffle dress for the event. It turns out she chose the dress with purpose: “I’d just had a mastectomy and I had to cover my bandages,” she explains.

Fonda admits her cancer diagnosis is “an ongoing process.”

“So, there’s that,” she says, matter-of-factly.

What is skin cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic, skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. (1)

Skin cancer begins in your skin’s top layer – the epidermis, a thin layer that provides a protective cover of skin cells that your body continually sheds.

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. However, the actual number of the most common types – basal cell and squamous cell, also referred to as

nonmelanoma skin cancer – is difficult to estimate because cases are not required to be reported to cancer registries.

The most common types of skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Basal and Squamous

Cancers of the skin (most of which are basal and squamous cell skin cancers) are the most common of all types of cancer. According to one estimate, about 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year (occurring in about 3.3 million Americans, as some people have more than one). About 8 out of 10 of these are basal cell cancers. Squamous cell cancers occur less often.

Death from these cancers is uncommon. It’s thought that about 2,000 people in the U.S. die each year from these cancers, and the rate has been dropping in recent years.


The American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2019 are:

  • About 96,480 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 57,220 in men and 39,260 in women).
  • About 7,230 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 4,740 men and 2,490 women).

The rates of melanoma have been rising for the past 30 years.

Overall, cancer usually develops in older people; 80% of all cancers in the U.S. are diagnosed in people 55 years of age or older. Certain behaviors also increase risk, such as smoking, having excess body weight, and drinking alcohol. In the US, approximately 39 out of 100 men and 38 out of 100 women will develop cancer during their lifetime. (2)

The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined has increased substantially since the early 1960s, from 39% to 70% among whites and from 27% to 63% among blacks. Improvements in survival reflect advances in treatment, as well as earlier diagnosis for some cancers. Survival varies greatly by cancer type, as well as stage and age at diagnosis.

Skin cancer risks

Among the factors that may increase your chance of skin cancer are:

  • Fair skin.
  • A history of sunburns.
  • Excessive sun exposure.
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates.
  • Moles.
  • Precancerous skin lesions.
  • A family history of skin cancer.
  • A personal history of skin cancer.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Exposure to radiation.

Skin cancer prevention

However, there are ways to help protect yourself:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day.
  • Wear sunscreen year-round.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications.
  • Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.

The best way to detect skin cancer early is to be aware of new or changing skin growths, particularly those that look unusual. Any new lesions, or a progressive change in a lesion’s appearance (size, shape, or color, etc.), should be evaluated promptly by a physician.

Warning signs of all skin cancers include changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn’t heal. Changes that progress over a month or more should be evaluated by a health care provider.



(1) Skin cancer. Symptoms & Causes. Mayo Clinic.

(2) Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. American Cancer Society.



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