Tanning addict, 24, who used sunbeds up to three times a week because she wrongly thought they would help clear up her eczema gets skin cancer
A 24-year-old eczema sufferer who used sunbeds because she thought they’d stop her itching has told how her addiction left her with skin cancer.
Daniella Bolton, of Edinburgh, used beds twice a week for up to 12 minutes at a time over two years because creams proved useless.
But on a shopping trip in February 2017 with her grandmother Linda, 65, the sales administrator noticed a mole on her otherwise blemish-free back.
After being referred to a dermatologist by her GP, Miss Bolton was told the mole was cancerous and she had melanoma.
Now cancer-free after undergoing a biopsy, Ms Bolton is urging others against using tanning beds, warning it ‘isn’t worth the risk’.
Sunbeds give out UV rays that can be stronger than midday sun in tropical countries, leading to a higher risk of skin cancer.
Sunlight can help reduce symptoms of eczema by reducing inflammation and itching, so phototherapy – the medical use of ultraviolet light – can be used to treat the condition.
But it is should only be used if topical treatments have not worked. And if it is recommended, it should be carried out by a medical professional, rather than in a commercial sunbed.
Daniella Bolton, from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with skin cancer after using sunbeds twice a week for up to 12 minutes at a time over two years
She turned to sunbeds after being unable to manage her sore and itchy skin through eczema creams
The sales administrator from Edinburgh suffered from inflamed and itchy skin (left) for years and tried ‘every cream and lotion from the doctors’. But after using sunbeds twice a week for two years, she spotted a mole on her back (right)
Miss Bolton said: ‘I was a sunbed addict. I used to go all the time, probably two or three times a week.’
She started using them at 18 after reading that UV lights can reduce inflammation from eczema, which she suffered from on her arms and legs.
Miss Bolton said: ‘Over the years I’d tried every cream and lotion from the doctors.
‘Nothing was really working and if it did work it would only work for a short while and then it would flare up again and it just wouldn’t go away.
‘It was really itchy and embarrassing.
‘Obviously by doing that I would get a nice tan as well, which I was quite happy about, so I just kept going.’
ARE SUNBEDS SAFE?
Sunbeds give out ultraviolet (UV) rays that increase your risk of developing skin cancer, both skin cancer (melanoma) and skin cancer (non-melanoma).
Many sunbeds give out greater doses of UV rays than the midday tropical sun.
The risks are greater for young people. Evidence shows people who are frequently exposed to UV rays before the age of 25 are at greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Sunbeds, lamps and tanning booths give out the same type of harmful radiation as sunlight.
UVA rays make up about 95 per cent of sunlight.
They can cause your skin to age prematurely, making it look coarse, leathery and wrinkled.
UVB rays make up about 5 per cent of sunlight and burn your skin.
A tan is your body’s attempt to protect itself from the damaging effect of UV rays. Using a sunbed to get a tan is not safer than tanning in the sun.
It may even be more harmful, depending on factors such as: the strength of UV rays from the sunbed, how often you use a sunbed, the length of your sunbed sessions, your skin type and your age.
But in while trying on a dress in a River Island changing room in February 2017, just after her 20th birthday, she spotted a mole on her back.
Miss Bolton said: ‘It wasn’t very big at all, it was a deep brown colour and was a wee bit raised.
‘I don’t have any spots, moles or freckles on my back so it was quite obvious to me.
‘As soon as I saw it I remember thinking ‘what’s this?’ I was with my nana at the time and I got her to have a look at it too.
‘When it didn’t go away I thought I needed to go to the doctor and get it checked out.’
When it still hadn’t gone away two months later, she went to her GP.
Miss Bolton underwent a biopsy in May.
She was told a few weeks later that she has melanoma.
Miss Bolton said: ‘When I heard the word melanoma I became really distressed and I questioned my whole life. I thought “oh my god am I going to die? What’s going to happen?” I was so worried.
‘It was very upsetting. I spoke to my nana about it and I just kept saying to her “am I going to die? Am I going to be ok?”
‘I’d never heard of anyone my age having it, I just started questioning everything.’
She underwent an operation at St John’s Hospital in Livingston in July that year to remove more tissue and have a lymph node biopsy to check whether the cancer had spread.
The checks revealed that she was all clear, which Miss Bolton said was ‘the best day of her life’.
She said: ‘The mole itself was really small. I’ve got a scar under my left arm from where they tested my lymph nodes.
‘The scar on my back is a good few centimetres bigger than the mole was but I’m just grateful that everything came back clear and I didn’t need further treatment.’
‘I genuinely felt it was the best day of my life when the results came back clear, I burst into tears of happiness because it was such a relief.’
Now, Miss Bolton never goes on sunbeds and is urging others to do the same.
After having the mole removed and undergoing tests, medics revealed Miss Bolton was cancer-free. She has now been left with a scar on her back from where the mole was removed, as well as a scar under her left arm from where they tested her lymph nodes
Miss Bolton said: ‘Sunbeds are now a thing of the past, I don’t go anymore.
‘I don’t want to ever go through that again, it was so horrible.
‘I’m definitely a reformed sunbed addict. Now if I want a nice tan I’ll use fake tan. Going on sunbeds isn’t worth the risk.’
Lisa Bickerstaffe, a British Skin Foundation spokesperson told MailOnline: ’77 per cent of dermatologists agree that sunbeds should be banned altogether in the UK according to a 2019 survey undertaken by the British Skin Foundation.
‘The dermatologists’ opinions appear to support research stating the potential to get skin cancer, including melanoma, is increased in those who have also used sunbeds.
‘We know that there is no such thing as a safe tan from UV rays, therefore, the British Skin Foundation, in line with other health organisations does not recommend sunbed use.’
MELANOMA IS THE MOST DANGEROUS FORM OF SKIN CANCER
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors.
Around 15,900 new cases occur every year in the UK, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK statistics.
- Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
- Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma
- Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
- Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
- Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk
- Removal of the melanoma:
This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary.
- Skin grafting:
The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent.
- Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy:
This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
- Use sunscreen and do not burn
- Avoid tanning outside and in beds
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- See your physician every year for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society