Mum, 25, who used sunbeds to top up tan before holiday given devastating diagnosis

A mother who used sunbeds to top up her tan before jetting off on holiday has been given a devastating diagnosis. Katie McVeigh started using sunbeds at the age of 16.

The 25-year-old said she liked to get a ‘base tan’ before her trips and would sometimes use them twice a week. After spotting a new mole and having it removed, she didn’t think ‘it was anything serious’.

But she was left ‘terrified’ when doctors told her she had cancer. Ms McVeigh has since been told the cancer has spread.

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Ms McVeigh was diagnosed with melanoma in 2022, BelfastLive reports. The mum, from Belfast, said: “I used sunbeds before going on holiday because I got liked a ‘base tan’ and it became a bit of a habit.

“I was probably using them twice a week before I was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. I noticed a new mole on my face in 2022 so I asked my GP about it, they referred me to a dermatologist and I ended up having it removed.

“I didn’t think it was anything serious but a few weeks after the operation I was called in and told that I had melanoma. I don’t remember much of the conversation but it was terrifying.

“I ended up having further surgery and then found out the cancer spread to my lymph nodes and I’m still having treatment now. It’s been really hard and has caused me a lot of anxiety.

“I’m a single parent to a four-year-old and I’d do anything to survive for her. Tanning salons are everywhere in Belfast, it’s quite scary when you think how dangerous they are.”

Melanoma is said to be the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing 2,300 people in the UK per year. Charity Melanoma Focus said melanoma skin cancer rates have risen by around a third in the UK over the last decade.

It is estimated that sunbeds cause about 440 melanomas and around 100 deaths each year across the country. New research has found that public awareness of the dangers of sunbed use is low with just 62 per cent of people in the UK aware that sunbed use increases the risk of skin cancer.

This dropped to 52 per cent of 18 to 25 year olds, with 23 per cent believing sunbed use actually decreases the risk of skin cancer. Many people make frequent visits to tanning salons, with 74 per cent of people saying they use sunbeds at least once per month and 53 per cent using them at least once per week.

Susanna Daniels, CEO of Melanoma Focus, said: “The proliferation of sunbed use across the UK is alarmingly high and it’s shocking that so many people don’t realize how dangerous they are. Melanoma skin cancer rates are rising in the UK and it’s an increasingly serious health concern.

2The good news is that 86 per cent of melanomas are preventable by avoiding ultraviolet radiation, which comes from the sun or from sunbeds. We strongly advise against using sunbeds in order to protect your skin and reduce your chances of being diagnosed with melanoma or other skin cancers.”

Professor Catherine Harwood, Consultant Dermatologist and Melanoma Focus Trustee added: “We know that sunbed use is a significant risk factor for developing melanoma. Sunbeds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which damages the DNA of skin cells leading to genetic mutations and other changes that can cause the growth of cancerous cells.

“It’s very concerning that so many young people are regularly using sunbeds, unaware of the long-term consequences to their health. It is crucial that people understand the dangers of sunbed use and protect their skin from excessive UV radiation to reduce the risk of developing melanoma.”