Christopher Knight: From Brady Bunch Star to Skin Cancer Survivor

Christopher KnightChristopher Knight is well known for being an entrepreneur, game show host, and child star in the iconic role of “Peter Brady” on the landmark sitcom The Brady Bunch. However, few people know that he has been treated repeatedly for skin cancer in just the past two years. On May 28, 2015, Christopher spoke publicly for the first time about his experience with basal cell carcinoma at the 5th Annual Skin For Life event benefiting The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, Christopher Knight spent countless hours outdoors in the sun, giving little thought to sun protection. His parents were of the generation that believed that copious amounts of sunshine and fresh air were key to a healthy lifestyle. “There was no room for the idea that the sun was a source of ill health,” said Knight, who when not acting on The Brady Bunch was often at the beach with his family.

When the actor had an ultraviolet (UV) photo taken of his face at an event in 1985, he was shocked to see the sun damage on his cheeks. But since the damage wasn’t visible without the aid of UV photography, he continued enjoying the outdoors with no sun protection.

By the time Christopher turned 55, however, the sun damage began to appear in the form of actinic keratoses—rough, scaly patches on the skin that in some cases can turn into skin cancer. Concerned with how it looked, he consulted a dermatologist and learned about a topical treatment named Carac (a brand of the topical chemotherapy 5-fluorouracil). While undergoing the outpatient treatment, Christopher noticed an elevated, pencil-eraser-sized red spot on his cheek. “It kept bleeding and healing,” he said.

After checking the skin cancer information sections at SkinCancer.org, he found images that resembled his spot. “I thought it might be what I had, because it had an indentation when it wasn’t red and open,” he said. He went back to his dermatologist for a biopsy and learned it was basal cell carcinoma.

Unfortunately, the biopsy did not fully remove all the cancer cells, and eight months later, the tumor recurred in the same spot. Since he knew the dangers of skin cancer, this time Christopher had the tumor excised by an expert in Mohs surgery, considered the single most effective technique for eliminating skin cancer. A year later, Christopher was treated again with Mohs surgery due to a recurrence on the same cheek. Christopher is grateful today that he is left with no visible scars. “Our face is our calling card, even to an extra extent for me,” he said. “Thank God there is this thing called Mohs surgery.”

After multiple treatments, Christopher has learned to make sun protection a part of his daily lifestyle. “I don’t go to the beach as often,” he said. “I make sure that I always wear a hat and use sunscreen. I’m resigned to the fact that the sun is a hazard. That’s the major difference. Let me be a lesson about why you should wear sun protection.”

Published on September 9, 2015