shining a light on risk of skin cancer

Sue Timony (right) who is launching a sun awareness campaign after being diagnosed with skin cancer
Sue Timony (right) who is launching a sun awareness campaign after being diagnosed with skin cancer
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Skin cancer is at an all time high. Catherine Scott spoke to one woman about her campaign to raise awareness.

Like many people, Sue Timoney liked to have a bit of a tan and enjoyed the odd sun bed. Little did she know this would end up leading to a potentially fatal disease.

“In the 1990s, when I was in my early 20s I, like most people, was totally ignorant of the dangers sun beds posed,” says Sue, 43, from North Yorkshire.

But five months ago, during a routine visit to the doctor, her world was turned upside down.

“I was at the GP with one of my daughters and asked her to have a look at a small, funny looking mole on my hip that I was bit concerned about.”

The doctor referred Sue to a specialist and was seen ten days later.

Two days after that she was in Harrogate District General Hospital having the mole removed. Then three weeks later she received the devastating results; she had skin cancer.

“It’s a cliché, but you always think it won’t happen to you – and then it does,” says Sue.

“Having to tell my girls, who are just six and eight, was really hard and then of course getting your head around the next steps is tricky, because you want to keep a brave face on but inside you are panicking like mad.

“One of the first things you ask yourself is why – apparently its usual for women to have skin cancer on their legs and arms, but as mine was on my hip the surgeon said it was most likely to have been a result of using a sun bed.

“I do feel though that I am one of the lucky ones – my cancer was less than 1mm – so following a successful operation to remove it I actually feel like I have had a very lucky escape. However, I must go back for regular check-ups every three months to make sure it hasn’t spread to my lymph nodes and I have also had clinical photography taken at Leeds General Infirmary so that I have a permanent record of my moles so that they can be monitored for any change.

“Like all cancer sufferers, nothing prepares you for the diagnosis and even though it’s been good news so far, a malignant melanoma is actually one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer so removing it successfully doesn’t always mean everything is going to be OK in the future.”

According to The British Association of Dermatologists the number of people in the UK being treated for skin cancer in hospitals has increased by 41 per cent in just five years.

The data, compiled by researchers at Public Health England, does not include cases treated at outpatient units or by GPs.

“My type of cancer is rising at an alarming rate – probably due to sun beds, an increase in foreign holidays and the trend for tanned skin – so I feel that one of the most helpful things I can do now is to raise awareness. That’s why I wanted to do something positive that would educate and raise money to fight what is one of the biggest cancer killers out there.”

Sue and six of her family, friends and fellow skin cancer sufferers are taking part in the It Takes Seven British Skin Foundation campaign – where 100 per cent of all fund-raising goes towards the battle against skin cancer.

“It’s a 12 month campaign and all seven of us will carry out personal challenges as well as holding events to raise the £3,000 target we have set ourselves.” Sue has already completed a 10k run in York last month and this weekend she plans to climb all three of Great Britain’s highest peaks – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – in 24 hours with her husband, Richard.

“Next month I am hosting an evening of fashion and beauty at my local village pub, The Dunsforth, and we have almost sold out of tickets for the event already,” adds Sue.

The fashion show will also include information about protecting your skin from the affects of the sun’s UVB and UVA rays.

Jancey Moorhouse, who works for a spa retreat, is on Sue’s team and spends a lot of her time educating people about the dangers of the sun.

“People aren’t aware that the UVA rays in the sun are as dangerous in the winter as they are in the summer,” she says. The event is supported by Heliocare, a Yorkshire-based company which specialises in high level UV protection.

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