Skin cancer mum’s shock at tan scandal

Jo Irving with her son Ryley, two
Jo Irving with her son Ryley, two
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A skin cancer survivor today told of her ‘disgust’ that resort tanning salons have been caught allowing underage people to use their sunbeds.

Blackpool mum Jo Irving spent close to two decades of her life using sunbeds before she was diagnosed with skin cancer last year.

Jo Irving's face after she removed the dressing post surgery for basal cell carcinoma

Jo Irving's face after she removed the dressing post surgery for basal cell carcinoma

She used the tanning beds up to five times a week in her younger years and even continued when she was pregnant.

She told The Gazette in an interview back in May how she had noticed what she thought was a blemish on her face which wouldn’t heal and it was only when she we for a post-natal check-up following the birth of her son Ryley that she finally decided to mention to a doctor – and she was eventually told it was cancer.

Now, she is trying to use her experience to warn others of the dangers. And she says she was horrified to hear licensing bosses’ revelation – reported in yesterday’s Gazette – that 60 per cent of tanning shops they targeted in a “test purchase” operation failed – by allegedly offering a teenager time on sunbeds and sunshowers.

The law was changed in 2001 to ban under 18s from using tanning beds. Tanning shop owners could have licences taken away or fined if they are caught.

And two Blackpool tanning salon owners appeared before magistrates earlier in the week, and were fined £250 in each case, as part of the town hall crackdown.

But Jo, 32, who works for Jet2, says she wants to see tougher penalties for those who flout the rules.

“It’s disgusting really, the number of shops caught allowing under-age people to use sunbeds. My personal feeling is sunbeds should be banned full-stop, as they have been in Australia and Brazil.

“But it really is up to shops to train and monitor their staff to make sure under-age people are not being allowed in.

“There should be much heftier fines in my opinion for those who break the rules.

“And they should lose their licences when they are caught – even if it’s just temporary. Anything which will make them think twice.”

Jo’s skin cancer was basal cell carcinoma, the same type Hollywood star Hugh Jackman also developed. It showed up after she noticed what she thought was a blemish on her face, which wouldn’t heal or go away.

After speaking to the doctor at her post-natal check she was eventually referred to a skin specialist.

She had to have the spot – a “rodent ulcer” – removed, along with the tissue around it, and a skin graft using skin from behind her ear to repair the damage.

Jo now wants to work with public health officials to inform others about the risks of sunbeds.

She added: “I started using sunbeds when I was 14 and used to go into the shop in my school uniform. It was a long time ago and the law has changed since. But at 14, you have no idea.

“I would really like to see photos up on the walls of tanning salons, like the graphic pictures now featured on cigarette packets. Pictures of the damage to people like me, to make the message to home.”