Scottish Government
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Skin cancer survivor warns of sunbed danger

A skin cancer survivor and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon today joined forces to issue a new warning about the dangers of unsafe tanning.

The warning comes as figures, published today by ISD Scoland, show a sharp increase in reported cases of melanoma in the last ten years.

Today’s cancer incidence figures show a 62 per cent rise in skin cancer between 2000 and 2010.

The main risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to natural and artificial sunlight, especially at a young age.

Mum-of-one Jacqui Carruthers was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in March 2009 at the age of 29, and is warning about the dangers of using sunbeds.

Jacqui used sunbeds before a night out, or before going on holiday, and would sunbathe with little or no sun protection to give her a ‘healthy glow’.

At the end of 2008 she became aware of a mole on her back that she felt had changed in colour. After a few months she was referred to see a dermatologist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

A few weeks later a biopsy revealed it was a malignant melanoma and the mole was removed. A week later Jacqui had a wider incision to remove the surrounding tissue and ensure the cancer had not spread.

Ms Sturgeon said: “These figures are yet another stark warning of the dangers of unsafe tanning – either in the sun or using sunbeds.

“People need to realise how essential it is to wear sunscreen and cover up in the sun. Doing this and avoiding sunbed use really could save your life.

“Using sunbeds is dangerous and that is why Scotland led the way by being the first part of the UK to introduce legislation to address the health risks associated with sunbed use.

“Jacqui’s story shows us that you don’t need to use sunbeds regularly to put yourself at risk of skin cancer. I hope people will use her experience as a warning and think very carefully before using sunbeds or going out in the sun without wearing sunscreen.

“The increase in the number of people being diagnosed with melanoma may in part be down to better awareness and improved diagnosis, but there is no doubt that unsafe tanning remains a big issue, particularly among the young.

“We recently launched the Detect Cancer Early campaign – the sooner cancer is treated the better the chances of survival.”

The Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 banned the use of sunbeds by under 18s and it also required operators to display notices warning of the health risks and to provide information to users of sunbeds on those risks.

Three years on, there is no evidence that Jacqui’s cancer has returned and she no longer has to have regular check ups.

Jacqui, now 32, who lives in Bishopton with husband David, 34, and son Jude, 4, said: “I sunbathed as a teenager and in my 20s. Although I wasn’t a regular sunbed user, I used sunbeds occasionally prior to nights out to make myself look good and have a 'healthy' tanned appearance.

“When I was diagnosed I felt as though my life had been pulled from under me. I was completely naïve and didn’t believe that this could happen to me. I'm not pale skinned and I don’t burn so I didn’t think that skin cancer would ever be an issue.

“I would warn anyone against using sunbeds as they are significantly increasing their risk of getting cancer.”

Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns said:

“Exposure to sunlight, to a certain extent is very important, for the generation and production of vitamin D in the skin, however, it is very important not to get burnt – use sun block and limit your exposure to the sun – that’s the best way of avoiding this particular tumour.

“Survival in Scotland after a diagnosis of this tumour is generally better than in most other European countries. So, it is important that if you have a dark patch on your skin that you think has changed recently or has started to bleed or become itchy you go and see the doctor about it and get the best available treatment.”

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