FOR years, Carrie Searcy was so desperate to achieve the 'model tan' she saw in magazines that she used sunbeds up to three times a week.
And despite warnings from friends, Carrie, 38, who rarely took care of her skin, didn't listen.
However, last year, Carrie was given a terrifying wake-up call – after an innocent looking white spot on her forehead turned out to be deadly skin cancer.
The mother-of-one, from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, was forced to have a 10p sized chunk removed from her forehead – leaving her with a four-inch scar on her face.
Devastated, Carrie is now sharing her nightmare ordeal to raise awareness of skin cancer and to urge others not to make the same mistake she did by using sunbeds.
Her warnings come after The Sun launched the Dying For A Tan campaign to highlight the dangers of sunbeds and the signs of skin cancer.
Carrie had been a diehard tanner and used sunbeds regularly from the ages of 16-years-old to 25.
"For nine years I was obsessed with looking as tanned as I could – I would go on sunbeds three times a week and never wear suncream," she said.
"I would see models in magazines or on TV and think that was how tanned I needed to be, so would do whatever it took to get there."
I was obsessed with looking as tanned as I could
However, over ten years later, Carrie noticed a white 'waxy looking' spot on her forehead.
She added: "A couple of years ago I noticed a white spot on my forehead and it started to get bigger, whiter and waxy looking.
"I'd tried everything I could think of to treat it myself but I think deep down I knew what it was, so last month I went to see a dermatologist."
The dermatologist gave the marketing specialist a biopsy and diagnosed her with basal cell carcinoma –
a non-melanoma skin cancer which usually develops in the outermost layer of the skin.
It accounts for 75 per cent of all skin cancers.
Carrie was scheduled her in for surgery just weeks later to remove the cancerous tumour and the skin that surrounds it.
Having always been image conscious, Carrie was left heartbroken that she would have a scar on her face.
She said: "The spot was about the size of my fingertip so I honestly thought the surgery would be fine, but the nurse told me that cancer is like an iceberg – it's always bigger under the surface.
"They ended up cutting out a chunk about the size of a quarter.
"They'd take the area they thought was the cancer spot and then check it under a microscope to see if there were any cancer cells connecting to the skin the left – they did that twice and after the second time they said it was all clear."
However, Carrie was devastated when she saw the results of her surgery.
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.
"When I saw the stitches I was terrified – I cried and cried because I realised just how big the scar was and, in turn, how much cancer there must have been," she said.
"There are two layers of stitches in my wound and the top ones come out next week, whilst the ones underneath will dissolve.
"This whole experience has shown me that tanning isn't worth it – there are safer alternatives to achieve the tanned look and sunbeds or sun exposure are not necessary."
Melanoma skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common in people aged 25 to 49.
What is basal cell carcinoma skin cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer which usually develops in the outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis.
It accounts for 75 per cent of all skin cancers.
BCC is also known as rodent ulcer and it usually appears as a small, pink or white lump with a waxy appearance.
In some cases it can look like a scaly, red patch on the skin and there can be a brown pigment within the patch.
Typically the lump gets bigger over time and can bleed, get crusty or transform into a painless ulcer.
The tumour can usually be found on the skin exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, hands, ears, upper chest and back.
Surgery is often the most common treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer.
It involves the removal of the cancerous tumour and the skin that surrounds it.
In total, Hugh Jackman has had six cancer removal surgeries on his skin to help cure him of BCC.
The most recent procedure was last year, when he shared a picture of himself after having skin cut from his nose again.
In the UK, around 147,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year.
Experts believe almost nine in ten cases could be prevented if people protect their skin with a high factor sun cream.
Getting sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of melanoma.
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