PAT Eardley knows first-hand the importance of being safe in the sun.
The 55-year-old was brought up ‘outdoors’, and at just 19 was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
Pat, of Normoss, is now helping Cancer Research UK with a campaign to raise awareness of the condition and urge people to be sure they are safe in the sun.
She now always wears suncream in the summer months - even if the weather is cloudy. She does not recall wearing suncream as a child growing up in the 60s, and had not heard of skin cancer before she was diagnosed.
She was still at school when she first became aware of a mole on her right arm, which bled if scratched.
She had to have an area of skin and tissue removed, which left her with a life-long scar on her arm, similar to a bite mark. She had initially feared the cancer was a death sentence, but was fortunate to not need further treatment.
Her father was also being treated for cancer at the time. He had initially been diagnosed with cancer of the jaw before developing secondary tumours throughout his body, and he died in 1984.
Pat, who works as a civil servant, faced more heartache when she was diagnosed with a completely unrelated cancer in 1985, aged just 28.
She was suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and initially given a poor prognosis. Pat was sterilised following the treatment, leaving her unable to have children. Despite being very poorly, Pat made an excellent recovery.
But cancer struck her family again. In 2005, her husband Don started to feel unwell and, by the following year, despite always having kept fit, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had already spread to his bladder.
He underwent gruelling treatment at The Christie in Manchester, including losing his appendix and bladder, and having his bowel rebuilt. He recovered, still runs half-marathons from time to time, and is looking forward to turning 60 in October.
Pat also had a more recent cancer scare - when she found a lump in her stomach two years ago, which proved to be a pre-cancerous ovarian cyst.
She underwent a full hysterectomy as part of the treatment. She is now undergoing check-ups every six months at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
And she remains super-vigilant about taking care of herself in the summer months.
Pat said: “When I was diagnosed back in the 1970s, there wasn’t much awareness about skin cancer, and I didn’t know anyone else who had been treated for the disease.
“But now there are more and more cases. I talk to friends and colleagues who are in their 50s, and show them my scar to bring home to them how important it is be vigilant about changes to their skin.
“Even if it is overcast, I always wear sun cream in the summer months.
“I know if the skin cancer hadn’t been caught early, things could have been very different for me. I know only too well from what both my husband and I have gone through, that all too often cancer is detected further down the line when effective treatment becomes more difficult.”
A recent rise in the rates of skin cancer have prompted Tesco to launch a new in-store awareness campaign with Cancer Research UK, as part of their Charity of the Year partnership.
The goal is to raise awareness of the early signs of cancer – including malignant melanoma - because the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chance people have of beating the disease.
Cancer Research UK leaflets about the early signs of skin cancer, and advice on preventing the disease, will be available in Tesco pharmacies and cafes.