Patient Stories

Deborah Hutton’s skin cancer journey: “I’m not out of the woods”

Read Deborah's story and learn how you can be sun smarter
MoleMap Team
June 3, 2023
6 minutes

Deb­o­rah Hut­ton is a much-loved Aus­tralian icon who has built an illus­tri­ous career as a mod­el, media per­son­al­i­ty and mag­a­zine editor.

But in recent years, she’s found her­self in her most impor­tant role yet: edu­cat­ing peo­ple about the impor­tance of get­ting reg­u­lar skin checks as an ambas­sador for the Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion Inc.

“Out of every­thing I’ve done or accom­plished, this is the most mean­ing­ful thing I have ever done with my life,” she said in Skin Deep, a 7NEWS Spot­light doc­u­men­tary where she reveals her per­son­al jour­ney with skin cancer.

Ear­li­er this year, Deb­o­rah trav­elled across Aus­tralia with 7NEWS Spot­light, talk­ing to experts about skin can­cer — a dis­ease that impacts two in three Aussies.

“This is Australia’s dis­ease, we own this,” said Deb­o­rah of skin cancer.

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Life­sav­ing surgery

In May 2020, Deb­o­rah under­went major surgery to remove two Basal Cell Car­ci­no­mas (BCC) from her face. Although the surgery suc­cess­ful­ly removed all the can­cer, she still remains at high risk for skin can­cers in future.

“It will hap­pen again — I’m not out of the woods,” she said, ​“That area of the face is a free­way for skin cancer.”

She now gets her skin checked every three to four months to ensure she stays on top of any changes or ear­ly warn­ing signs.

‘Ear­ly detec­tion is everything’

In June 2020, just one month after her face surgery, Deb­o­rah shared an image on her Insta­gram of a deep wound around her mouth where the skin can­cer had been cut out.

“After hav­ing the stitch­es out from anoth­er major surgery to remove two skin can­cers, and being extreme­ly grate­ful they’ve got it all, I feel it’s only right to remind you to get your skin checked,” she wrote in the Insta­gram post.

“Please… Ear­ly detec­tion is every­thing! Don’t delay,” she urged.

The pho­to showed the large area where the skin can­cer was removed, which ran from the right side of her nose, down around the right side of her mouth to her chin.

It’s hard to believe that before surgery, Deborah’s skin can­cer wasn’t vis­i­ble to the naked eye and the area on her face seemed to look like nor­mal, healthy skin. Luck­i­ly, the skin can­cer was picked up dur­ing a rou­tine check by her der­ma­tol­o­gist. This is why Deb­o­rah is so pas­sion­ate about advo­cat­ing for reg­u­lar mole check.

While the for­mer mod­el and TV pre­sen­ter is used to hav­ing her face in the pub­lic eye, she admit­ted that post­ing her post-surgery pho­to was dif­fi­cult. But she knew the mes­sage behind the image was too impor­tant not to share. The response she received after­wards made it all worth­while, with many peo­ple send­ing com­ments and mes­sages to thank her for urg­ing them to get their skin checked.

“This is ugly and this is some­thing peo­ple should see… I am so thrilled for the momen­tum,” she stat­ed at the time.

In the Insta­gram post, Deb­o­rah also shared that this was not the first time she’d been under the knife to have skin can­cer removed. She’d had a sim­i­lar surgery nine years prior.

“My skin will heal and in the com­ing months, you’ll hard­ly see the scar,” she said, ​“Skin heals beau­ti­ful­ly but only if you give it the chance before it’s too late.”

Like Deb­o­rah, many peo­ple in Aus­tralia and New Zealand have sun dam­age from their youth. And the best way to detect skin can­cer ear­ly enough for treat­ment is by get­ting reg­u­lar com­pre­hen­sive skin checks, like our Full Body MoleMap, at specialised skin cancer clinics.

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Skin checks are ​‘more impor­tant than vanity’

Twelves months after her life­sav­ing surgery, Deb­o­rah took to Insta­gram again with a pos­i­tive update on how her face was healing.

“[My] mes­sage is clear and sim­ple … Don’t be afraid, don’t put it off, don’t delay … If you haven’t had your skin checked with a pro­fes­sion­al in the last 12 months, it’s time to get an [appoint­ment],” she wrote in the Insta­gram post.

“If I’d jumped on it soon­er than I did, I might have avoid­ed such an inva­sive surgery,” she added.

The before and after pho­tos, tak­en one year apart, show how excep­tion­al­ly well her scars had healed in just twelve months. Although she looks just as gor­geous as ever, Deb­o­rah reminds us that hav­ing skin checks is ​“more impor­tant than vanity.”

“The fear shouldn’t be the scar that might be left, the fear should be not get­ting to (the can­cer) in time … Your face will heal or you could lose every­thing — mouth, nose, ear — you need to com­mu­ni­cate with,” she cautioned.

“I’m lucky to have an incred­i­ble sur­geon who pieces my face back togeth­er,” she added.

Hats off to sun safety

There may be a long road ahead in Deb­o­rah Hutton’s skin can­cer jour­ney, but her deter­mi­na­tion to change people’s per­cep­tion of their rela­tion­ship with the sun is stronger than ever.

“We can­not treat the sun as our mate,” she once stated.

She’s also been very clear about her dis­like for see­ing peo­ple pur­pose­ful­ly tan­ning them­selves in the sun, not­ing pre­vi­ous­ly, ​“I wish it were fash­ion­able to be pale.”

This is one of the big rea­sons why she has launched her own range of UPF 50+ hats under her label, Canopy Bay. The face, head and neck are some of the most com­mon areas for skin can­cer. Wear­ing prop­er sun pro­tec­tive cloth­ing of UPF 50+ is one of the best ways to pre­vent skin can­cer and reduce your melanoma risk.

Want to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of your per­son­al skin can­cer risk? Take our free quiz — it only takes a few minutes.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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