Liz Yeates spent her summers growing up outdoors without sunscreen. She suffered frequent burns, used sunbeds as she aged, and was a self-confessed sunbather abroad.
During a visit to her family doctor in the late 1990s, she was made aware of her many birthmarks and was advised to have them checked out.
This resulted in the removal of 13 birthmarks from her shoulder, abdomen, legs and even the soles of her feet. Over the next few years, she had several others removed as well.
Then, in 2006, she noticed one on her left thigh that had darkened and was “growing a tail,” so she made an appointment with a skin specialist, who removed it immediately.
Ms Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation, a cancer advice and support charity, said: “I got the shock of my life when she told me that if I had waited another six weeks to see her, my leg should have gone see amputated – and if I had waited another six months, the melanoma would have spread throughout my body, which would have been fatal.
“I was one of the lucky ones. Since then I have been attending regular mole mapping sessions and have had an additional 13 moles removed from my face, legs, feet and stomach – bringing my total to 31.
“I’m the woman with multiple scars now and my bikini-wearing days are long gone, but I’ve learned to take skin cancer very seriously.
“I’m constantly checking my siblings and my own children for signs and I’m a total whiner about putting on sunscreen, wearing hats and preferring to sit in the shade than in the direct sun.
“Skin cancer is completely preventable, so people really shouldn’t take any chances.”
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with almost 13,000 cases diagnosed each year.
This month launches the nationwide SunSmart campaign to make people aware of the dangers of overexposure to the sun and the importance of wearing sunscreen.
Bernie Carter, associate director of nursing at the Marie Keating Foundation, said some people are at a higher risk of skin cancer than others, but it’s important to be aware of the telltale signs.
“The older you are, the more likely you are to develop nonmelanoma skin cancer, but skin cancer can also occur in younger people, particularly melanoma,” she said.
“Other risk factors include a personal or family history of skin cancer, a large number of birthmarks, or being fair skin type and color, although it’s important to remember that people of all skin colors can get skin cancer.”
Information on the signs of skin cancer can be found on the HSE and Marie Keating Foundation websites.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/ive-had-dozens-of-moles-removed-if-i-had-waited-id-be-dead-says-survivor-of-skin-cancer-41645029.html “I had dozens of birthmarks removed. If I had waited I would be dead,” says one skin cancer survivor