Woman, 32, develops skin cancer from a chickenpox scar which was 27 years old

A woman who had chickenpox as a child was diagnosed with cancer growing out of the scar 27 years later.

Louise Thorell, 32, from Ashington in Northumberland, had to have three operations to remove the basal cell carcinoma skin cancer which developed on her face.

For years she had been embarrassed by the white scar beneath her right eye but it wasn't until 2018 that she noticed something more serious was happening inside it.

She accidentally scratched the skin, which had been 'tougher and waxier' than normal, and the scabs which developed would never heal.

It later became infected so she sought the help of a doctor and a test revealed Ms Thorell had basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which accounts for 75-80 per cent of skin cancer cases in the UK and US.

Louise (pictured before being diagnosed with cancer) had been left with a white scar beneath her right eye after she had chickenpox as a child

Louise (pictured before being diagnosed with cancer) had been left with a white scar beneath her right eye after she had chickenpox as a child

Ms Thorell had scratched the scar by accident and, although it kept scabbing over, it never properly healed and it later became infected so she went to see a doctor

Ms Thorell had scratched the scar by accident and, although it kept scabbing over, it never properly healed and it later became infected so she went to see a doctor

After having three surgeries to remove the cancer on her cheek, Ms Thorell was left with an even bigger scar on her face

After having three surgeries to remove the cancer on her cheek, Ms Thorell was left with an even bigger scar on her face 

'I accidentally scratched my scar and after that I had issues,' Ms Thorell said. 

'It would heal, a scab would form, it would fall off and an open wound would be there until a new scab would form.

'I dealt with it for a few months until I got an infection. [I got swelling under my eye] and my wound site got bigger each time it would open and heal again. 

'After the first infection I noticed it had changed in appearance. It had tiny little blood vessel veins around it.'

Ms Thorell's doctor referred her to a specialist melanoma clinic in her home county and there she was diagnosed with BCC.

Skin damage from ultraviolet light – from the sun or tanning beds – is the main cause of BCC. And the cancers are known to develop out of scars already on the skin.

Medical reports have revealed the tumours growing out of burn scars, cut and graze scars, tattoos and surgical scars, as well as from those left behind by chickenpox, according to a paper in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Scientists have suggested that scar tissue may have 'malignant potential' because of substances called growth factors which are produced by the immune system.

The growth factors are used to repair injured skin and tissue but are also implicated in the growth of tumours, according to a paper by University of Manchester researchers. 

Chickenpox is a common viral illness normally seen in children – it causes skin blistering and some of the injuries leave scars if they don't heal quickly.

Ms Thorell had chickenpox when she was just five years old and has had a scar on her right cheek ever since. 

'[The doctor told] me it did start off as a chickenpox scar and it's possible I've had BCC for years,' Ms Thorell said.

'I was told it was rarer for people my age to get BCC as it's usually pensioners who get it on their face or scalp from prolonged sun exposure.

'I avoid the sun. I have always been ghostly pale.'

It wasn't until Ms Thorell started to develop infections in her face (pictured, swelling beneath her eye) that she sought a doctor's help

It wasn't until Ms Thorell started to develop infections in her face (pictured, swelling beneath her eye) that she sought

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