Using sunbeds left us with craters in our faces, holes in our noses and bloody gashes all over our bodies
DARK bloody scabs covering faces, gaping holes in cheeks and noses and deep gashes across bodies sound like something from a horror movie.
But the shocking wounds are actually caused by skin cancer, which the women affected developed after using sunbeds.
Around 16,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year, and six Brits die from it every day – and this number has quadrupled since the late 1970s, when cheap foreign travel took off and sunbed salons began popping up all over Britain.
This week Fabulous has launched its Dying For A Tan campaign, to raise awareness of the devastating impact sunbeds can have on users’ health.
Since 2010 it’s been illegal for anyone under 18 to use sunbeds in the UK, but before then there were no restrictions – and many women in their 20s. 30s, 40s and beyond are now paying the price for using sunbeds as innocent teens.
It’s still legal for children to use them in many countries around the world, and using a sunbed at any age increases your risk of developing skin cancer by up to 25 per cent.
Here, three women bravely reveal the terribly high price they’ve paid for chasing that golden glow.
‘This is what skin cancer looks like’
Tawny Willoughby developed lesions on her face after years of using tanning beds five times a week – and now fears her sunbed addiction means she will die and leave her two-year-old son motherless.
In a selfie shared on Facebook, the 29-year-old nurse showed off the excessive damage, writing: “This is what skin-cancer treatment can look like.
“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!
“Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two-year-old little boy of my own.”
More than 50,000 people shared Tawny’s post.
Symptoms of melanoma
The most common sign of melanoma is a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one colour. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and/or colour.
The ABCDE checklist should help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma:
- Asymmetrical – melanomas have 2 very different halves and are an irregular shape
- Border – melanomas have a notched or ragged border
- Colours – melanomas will be a mix of 2 or more colours
- Diameter – most melanomas are larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter
- Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma
Left with a hole in her nose
Sadly, Tawny’s story is far from unique.
Nurse Jade Thrasher started using sunbeds at 13, having three 20-minute sessions a week for 11 years after feeling peer pressure to have golden skin.
Her parents even had a sunbed at home – although Jade preferred to use ones in a shop.
Later she got her own tanning bed after becoming obsessed with looking golden-brown for her wedding.
But in 2014 she noticed a spot on her nose which kept bursting and wouldn’t heal, with biopsies showing she had cancer at just 24 years old.
As a nurse Jade knew what to expect from her treatment, but things were hard on her husband Matthew and her family who were terrified the cancer could kill her.
Surgeons had to cut it out, leaving Jade with a hole the size of a 5p coin above her right nostril.
Flesh from her chest replaced what was missing, but the psychological scars have been less easy to heal.
“I want teenagers to see the photo of the hole in my nose so that they know what could happen,” says Jade, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I used to have a sunbed in my house, but I’ve thrown it in the trash. I didn’t want to sell it, because I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I went through.”
As Jade’s cancer was caught early she didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy but she still has regular checks.
‘I’d burn myself on purpose’
Kory Feltz, from California, started using tanning beds when she was just 13 after being bullied for being pale. She’d burn herself on purpose, and within 14 years she developed her first of a number of bouts of cancer.
As well as having a lump removed from her calf, she needed surgery on a cancerous mole on her lip. That left her with a huge scar and needing further reconstructive surgery.
“I knew it was bad when I noticed little mobility in my mouth while trying to ask the nurse if I looked like Kylie Jenner,” Kory previously said of waking up after her lip op.
“Her facial expression to that question led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t good.”
Almost 100 operations
Lisa Pace became so addicted to sunbeds she’d jump on one every day after starting to use them in high school.
It’s a decision she bitterly regrets after needing a staggering 86 surgeries to contain her persistent skin cancer.
She was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2000 aged just 23, after a routine health check led to her seeing a dermatologist.
She was told she had skin cancer, and after a little while sought a second opinion.
A “huge amount” of skin was taken from her thigh and calf, but Lisa was told all her cancer had been removed.
Staggeringly, she carried on tanning – insisting she had no idea the damage she was doing to her skin.
Within a year she’d found a spot on her left cheek, with more following on her face and legs.
At point one, she was having surgery for skin cancer every three months, and she’s now had almost 90 ops.
Dying For A Tan
There are an estimated 7,000 tanning salons in Britain, with some offering sessions from as little as 50p a minute.
Kids as young as EIGHT are using sunbeds, with seemingly little understanding they are playing Russian Roulette with their health.
According to Cancer Research UK, Melanoma skin cancer risk is 16-25 per cent higher in people who have used a sunbed (at any age), compared to people who have never used sunbeds.
This is because sunbeds pelt the skin with such strong UV rays which increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.
Just 20 minutes on one is comparable to four hours in the sun – with many stronger than Mediterranean rays at midday.
In many cases the damage is invisible until it’s too late, as it can take up to 20 years to become apparent.
Around 16,000 new melanoma skin cancer cases are diagnosed in the UK every year – that’s 44 every day.
There are around 2,300 melanoma skin cancer deaths annually – that’s more than six every day.
It’s part of the reason the World Health Organisation has deemed sunbeds are as dangerous as smoking.
This is why Fabulous says it is time to stop Dying For A Tan.
Scientists now believe sunbed use can be directly linked to 900 deaths per year in Europe – and it’s thought using sunbeds can increase your risk of melanoma skin cancer by 16- 20 per cent.
Like the sun, sunbeds give off UVA and UVB radiation that can damage the DNA in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.