'Cute' Freckle on Woman's Face Turns Out to Be 'Highly Aggressive' Cancer

A woman who developed what she described as a "super cute" freckle on her face was horrified to discover that she actually had a "highly aggressive" form of melanoma—a type of skin cancer.

KayIa Mailer, 32, from Portland, Oregon, first noticed the freckle on her face at the age of 12 and over the next decade or so it formed a perfect heart shape mark that people would compliment her on.

"From at least 6th grade I had a mole on my cheek and right below it was a flat freckle," Mailer told Kennedy News and Media.

"Over time that flat freckle became more and more prominent and by the time I was 26 it had formed into a heart shape and was super cute."

But a year later, the mark had lost its distinctive heart shape and began to turn darker. Mailer became concerned after noticing the changes and visited a dermatologist in November of 2017 to have it assessed.

The dermatologist said the freckle was "definitely suspicious" and decided to take a sample for further analysis.

Three days later, the dermatologist rang Mailer to inform her that the freckle was cancerous.

"He told me I had a 'highly aggressive' form of melanoma, that he'd scheduled me for the first available appointment at the surgery centre in Seattle and that I'd need plastic surgery too," Mailer told Kennedy News.

"I sobbed in my bathroom and [from then on] had constant anxiety about dying."

Mailer eventually underwent surgery to remove the melanoma, which was successful. She also subsequently had plastic surgery to close the wound.

Mailer is now cancer-free and is sharing her story to raise awareness about skin cancer, while urging people to always wear sunscreen when out in the sun.

"If I hadn't removed it, I would have died when I was 28 years old," she said. "I didn't tan a lot before the diagnosis, but when I was a kid I was running around Alabama, usually with no sunscreen, or at least not reapplied every two hours."

"I would advise people to wear sunscreen—reapply every two hours—and/or wear protective clothing. Get suspicious things checked by a professional. Live a life you love, and love the life you live."

Going for Regular Checks

Mailer said that she gets her skin checked every six months and has had several freckles removed since her cancer diagnosis as a precaution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) melanoma is the third-most common type of skin cancer. It begins in the melanocytes—cells that produce the natural pigment melanin found in the lower part of the epidermis, the upper or outer layer of the skin.

While it isn't the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma is responsible for the most deaths because it has a tendency to spread to other parts of the body, including the vital organs.

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet rays, which can damage skin cells, from the sun, tanning beds or sunlamps, according to the CDC.

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal or a change in a mole.

A file photo showing a melanoma. KayIa Mailer was told shed had melanoma in 2017. iStock