I was addicted to sunbeds but paid the price … 86 skin cancer operations to try and save me

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A TANNING addict who started using sunbeds in high school has had 86 surgeries to contain her persistent skin cancer.

Lisa Pace, 43, was tanning every day by the time she got to university.

  Lisa started tanning when she was at school and since then, has had over 80 skin cancer ops

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Lisa started tanning when she was at school and since then, has had over 80 skin cancer opsCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace
  A sports coach, she says that there was no education around the dangers of tanning when she was growing up

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A sports coach, she says that there was no education around the dangers of tanning when she was growing upCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

"I started tanning every day, or every other day", she told Today.

"It was addictive. People would say," You look so good, you look tan, "and it just encouraged me."

She was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2000 aged just 23, after a routine health check led to seeing a dermatologist.

They found that Lisa had some small light brown spots which they wanted to get biopsied.

And they found that she had skin cancer.

  She was first diagnosed at just 23, after a routine health check

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She was first diagnosed at just 23, after a routine health checkCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace
  A dermatologist noticed that she had light brown patches or skin that turned out to be melanomas

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A dermatologist noticed that she had light brown patches or skin that turned out to be melanomasCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

After leaving it a little while, Lisa went to a specialist for a second opinion and this time, they took a "huge amount" out of her thigh and calf.

"I had stitches, bandages, bleeding, bruising, swelling, and I had crutches," she recalled in a blog post for Coolibar, a company that sells UV protective clothing.

"But the good thing was, they said they got it all. This meant no more skin cancer, so I thought."

A little after that, Lisa continued to tan.

  Even after the first diagnosis, Lisa continued to use sunbeds because she liked looking tanned

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Even after the first diagnosis, Lisa continued to use sunbeds because she liked looking tannedCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

"Tanning beds were popular. I had tanned a lot in college. There were all kinds of promotions with free lotions, buy five visits, get five free, one month unlimited, etc. I enjoyed going."

Despite cutting down as she got older, the damage had already been done.

According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, tanning beds increase your risk or melanoma by 75 per cent.

Symptoms or melanoma

The most common sign of melanoma is a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than one color. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed. Look out for a mole which changes progressively in shape, size and / or color.

The ABCDE checklist should help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma:

  • asymmetrical – melanomas have 2 very different halves and are an irregular shape
  • Border – melanomas have a notched or ragged border
  • C.olours – melanomas will be a mix or 2 or more colors
  • Diameter – must melanomas are larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter
  • Edeclaration or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma

Source: NHS

Lisa, a college basketball coach, said: "I had no idea that the tanning bed was causing so much damage to my skin.

"I never saw any TV commercials warning about tanning bed use and skin cancer, there were no social media platforms warning me of the danger and consequences".

In less than a year after her first surgery, Lisa found a white spot on her left cheek which had to be removed.

"I was devastated. I couldn't look at myself," she wrote.

"I spoke with my doctors and after much discussion, I found that all those times going to the tanning bed had caused me to have skin cancer."

  It was only after having facial surgery that kicked in the reality of the situation

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It was only after having facial surgery that kicked in the reality of the situationCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace
  Despite quitting the sunbeds, the damage had been done and she got used to many more surgeries

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Despite quitting the sunbeds, the damage had been done and she got used to many more surgeriesCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

She soon started finding spots all over the body, from her face to her legs.

And she also developed two other types of skin cancer – squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

At point one, she was having skin cancer surgery every three months and by the time she was in the mid-30s, she had 50 ops undergone.

Despite being knocked down 86 times, she said: "I got back up 87 times".

Symptoms of Basal and Squamous cell carcinomas

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world.

Non-melanoma cancers are more common than melanomas, with 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year in the UK.

The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is usually the appearance of a lump or discoloured patch on the skin that continues to persist after a few weeks, and slowly progresses over months or sometimes years.

Melanomas, on the other hand, is often characterized by a mole.

There are two common types of non-melanoma:

Basal cell carcinoma (accounts for 75 per cent or skin cancers):

  • usually appears as a small, shiny pink or pearly-white lump with a waxy appearance
  • can also look like a red, scaly patch
  • there's sometimes some brown or black pigment within the patch
  • the lump slowly gets bigger and may become crusty, bleed or develop into a painless ulcer

Squamous cell carcinoma (accounts for the other 20 per cent):

  • appears as a firm pink lump with a rough or crusted surface
  • can be a lot of surface scale and sometimes even a spiky horn sticking up from the surface
  • lump is often tender to touch, bleeds easily and may develop into an ulcer
  She now says she always wears suncream and covers up when she's outside

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She now says she always wears suncream and covers up when she's outsideCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace
  At one stage, she was having an operation every three months

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At one stage, she was having an operation every three monthsCredit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

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"I know I'm going to win this battle"Credit: Facebook / Lisa Pace

She now always wears sun cream, wears long sleeves and a hat if she goes outdoors and checks her moles every day.

"I know I'm going to win this battle," she wrote.

"I know I do all the right things as far as protecting my skin and getting skin checks so I am confident in knowing skin cancer has with its match."


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