Danni Nulty spent years warning clients of the dangers of skin cancer caused by tanning.
As she always used factor 50 SPF, she never thought it would happen to her.
It was only when a fellow beautician told her to get the mole on her face checked that she found out she had cancer.
She used a few sunbeds when she was younger but once she heard about the dangers, she stopped and always tried to protect herself from sun damage.
But Danni, 36, of Coventry, Warwickshire, who lives with her personal trainer boyfriend Dave Kirkland, 38, saw a doctor, leading to a skin cancer diagnosis last November.
She said: ‘My friend Sarah McMaster asked if I’d ever had the mole checked, because she’d noticed it had got bigger.
‘She made me promise to go to the doctor, so I booked an appointment but never gave it another thought.
‘I knew it had grown, but it wasn’t itchy or raised and had never bothered me, so when the doctor suggested we get a second opinion and booked me an early morning hospital visit the following Sunday, I almost didn’t go because it was a weekend.’
Luckily for Danni, a beautician specialising in skincare and a business development manager, she made it to the hospital appointment, where doctors advised she would need to undergo a biopsy.
Just 10 days later, on 5 November 2018, dermatologists confirmed that she had stage one melanoma skin cancer.
‘I’m a redhead, half Irish and half Scottish, so with my colouring, I don’t tan and have never really been able to enjoy the sun,’ she said.
‘But for the last 10 years, I’ve always used factor 50 sun protection, so I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
‘I thought, ‘I can’t have skin cancer, it’s impossible.’
‘If you saw how white I am without fake tan, you’d think I was a zombie in an apocalypse movie.
‘But there was a Macmillan cancer nurse in the room, so although I was in a daze, I knew this was serious.’
How to check a mole
Here is the British Skin Foundation’s recommended ABCDE checklist for mole changes that should send you to the doctor:
Asymmetry: One half of a mole is different to the other half
Border: The edge of the mole is irregular, scalloped or poorly defined
Colour: an uneven colour or variable colours within a mole is a cause for concern
Diameter: You should have any mole that is larger than 6mm in size checked
Evolving: the mole is changing in size, shape or colour
The doctors told Danni that although they had caught the cancer early, it was on the cusp between stages one and two.
‘When I was 18 I had about a dozen sunbeds, but back then I didn’t realise how dangerous they were. I stopped as soon as I became more aware,’ she said. ‘Still, you never expect this to happen to you.
‘Now the big question was whether the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes.’
Luckily for Danni, one of the 17 in every 100,000 people in Great Britain to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year – compared with just three per 100,000 in the mid 1970s – according to the NHS, it had not spread.
And on 7 November 2018, she went under the knife at Hospital of St Cross, Rugby, Warwickshire.
Danni, who has been supported by the British Skin Foundation, continued: ‘As I lay there in the operating theatre, fully conscious as the surgeon cut out the mole and an inch of the skin surrounding it, I thought, ‘Nothing is worth this.’
‘I’m so grateful to my friend, who told me to get my mole checked, because if I’d gone even for a few more weeks without seeing the doctor, it could have been a very different story.
‘If the cancer had gone to stage two and reached my lymph nodes, I would have had to have chemotherapy, so the main thing I would say to anyone who notices any changes to a mole, however small is, to get it checked straight away.’
She was given the all clear but still need to be monitored by the hospital for another 12 months. She now admits she is scared of the sun and tries to cover up as much as possible.
‘It’s not holidays that are the biggest risk, because people do use sunscreen and reapply it,’ she said. ‘It’s the every day exposure and that’s the thing I’m most scared of now.
‘I check myself every day for any changes to moles and although I am now more anxious about skin cancer, I am also so grateful for the outcome in my own case, which could have been so much worse.’
Rates of malignant melanoma are rising faster than any other type of common cancer in the UK, according to Dr Anjali Mahto, a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, which recommends a whole-body self-examination monthly, after a shower or bath and in a well-lit room.
Its experts advise anyone spotting alterations to a mole, including a change in colour, shape or size, to see their doctor and get it checked.
‘It is safe to go out in the sun but only if you’re wearing sunscreen,’ said Dr Mahto. ‘You need a high protection SPF – 30 or more – to protect against UVB light and a cream with a 4- or 5-star circle logo to protect against the UVA rays.
‘When checking, people should look for any new moles, a mole that looks very different to the others or any skin lesion that bleeds or fails to heal.’
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