Two sisters have issued a sunbed warning after they were both diagnosed with skin cancer at the same time.
Mother-of-two Sarah Burnside, 24, used the sunbed to top up her tan after her annual summer holidays but after finding two suspicious looking moles on her foot and leg, was shocked to discover she had a deadly form of skin cancer.
After learning of her sister’s diagnosis, Rhianne Smith, 19, decided to get the moles on her face checked by her GP and was also diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer.
The pair, from Darlington, County Durham, are issuing a warning to sunbed users after Sarah was forced to have a ‘chunk’ taken out of her leg and Rhianne had a mole cut from her face.
Sisters Sarah Burnside, 24, and Rhianne Smith, 19, from Darlington, County Durham, were both diagnosed with skin cancer after regularly using sunbeds to top up their tan before and after holidays
Rhianne decided to get the moles on her face checked by her GP after her sister’s diagnosis and was also diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. The mole was cut off her face, pictured
Sarah had to have cancerous mole on her foot and her leg removed. Doctors only wanted to remove the one of her foot but she insisted they both be removed. Pictured: Sarah’s leg after the mole was cut out
Despite the doctors telling her it was nothing to worry about, Sarah insisted the mole on her leg be removed too and once it was cut out doctors found it was in fact cancerous. Pictured: The cancerous mole on her foot
Council worker, Sarah, said: ‘It’s definitely scary hearing the word cancer. At first, I was relieved and just felt lucky that I’d found it early because if I hadn’t, we don’t know what would have happened.
‘My family were more upset than me because it was just operations and I can handle that and I was just happy I didn’t have to have chemotherapy.
‘But when Rhianne was diagnosed, that was worse.
‘I hadn’t really cried about myself but when I found out about her I cried and cried because it’s my little sister.
‘I would rather it have been me again. She’s only 19 and it was on her face.’
The mum-of-two was diagnosed with skin cancer on her foot in June and after insisting that doctors also remove a mole from her leg, she was diagnosed with skin cancer for a second time in July.
The sisters, pictured on holiday as children, were both diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer at the same time and council worker Sarah, left, said she was more upset about her sister Rhianne’s (right) diagnosis than her own
To get rid of the cancer Sarah simply had to have surgery to cut it off the moles out of her skin and had to wear a large bandage over of foot and leg after the surgery
A worried Rhianne rushed to get her moles checked as she was a more avid sunbed user than her sister and was also diagnosed with skin cancer in her face in August.
Sarah said: ‘I got two new moles on my foot and leg that I didn’t like the look of. The one on my foot was irregular and darker and the one on my leg changed colour every day.
‘Some days it was purple, some days it was blue or red and someone had posted on Facebook that they had found out they had skin cancer so I went to get the moles checked by a dermatologist.
‘They weren’t worried about the mole on my leg but they were worried about the one on my foot so that was removed.
‘I asked them to remove the one on my leg as well because I had a feeling and that was also cancerous.
Rhianne was diagnosed with the same cancer as her sister in August after getting a mole of her face started changing and getting smaller. Pictured: The 19 year old after it was removed
Sarah said the mole on her foot was irregular and darker and the one on her leg changed colour every day – from purple to blue and to red
‘After I had my second diagnosis, the doctor said he’d never seen a 24-year-old with two melanomas.
‘If you aren’t happy with a mole and you have a gut feeling that it’s not right, ask to have it removed because if I didn’t ask, I’d still have the cancerous mole on my leg.
‘If I hadn’t been diagnosed with skin cancer twice then Rhianne would never have gone to get her mole checked.’
Psychology and counselling student, Rhianne added: ‘After I was diagnosed, I kept trying to distract myself so it wasn’t until about three days later when it hit me that I’m only 19 and I have skin cancer and so does my sister.
‘Our mum blames herself even though it’s not her fault but she just wants to take it away from us.
‘I had a mole on my face which started changing and with it being on my face I noticed that it was getting smaller so when Sarah was diagnosed I thought I definitely needed to get it checked.
Sarah said she saw something on Facebook where someone had found out they had skin cancer and decided to go get the moles checked by a dermatologist. Pictured: Sarah, left, and Rihanne, right, as children
Student Rhianna says her mother has started to blame herself for her daughter’s cancer diagnosis and said it took a few days to register with her that she had cancer. Pictured: The sisters when they were younger
‘Never in a million years when I was using the sunbed did I think I’d be diagnosed with skin cancer but I’m 19 and I’ve had to have a mole cut out of my face and I’ll be scarred forever now.’
Sarah would have 40 minutes worth of sunbed sessions over the space of two weeks before a summer holiday as she believed it would protect her skin from the heat when she was abroad and two nine minute sessions a week when she got back to top up her tan.
Meanwhile, sister Rhianne would use the sunbed twice a week in the weeks leading up to a holiday.
Sarah said: ‘I’ve learned since that even just one sunbed session can increase the risk of skin cancer.
‘I’d heard myths about how using the sunbed before a holiday can protect you, I didn’t have any idea how dangerous just one session is.
Sarah, pictured in hospital, would have 40 minutes worth of sunbed sessions over the space of two weeks before a summer holiday as she believed it would protect her skin from the heat when she was abroad
Sarah would also have two nine minute sessions a week when she got back from holiday to top up her tan and Rhianne would use the sunbed twice a week in the weeks leading up to a holiday. Pictured: Sarah’s leg after the surgery
‘I thought the only people who got skin cancer were older people who’d abused sunbeds for years and never wore sun cream.
‘I didn’t realise that one sunbed could make a difference.
‘Don’t think it’s never going to happen to you. We know lung cancer exists but people still smoke. A tan isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth skin damage, cancer, or wrinkles.
‘You can get a tan from a bottle.
‘I’ve lost count of the messages I’ve had from people saying they’ll never use a sunbed again after what happened to me and they’re getting moles checked and that’s the best thing to come out of it.’
Rhianne added: ‘It could happen to anyone. I used to have the mindset that it wouldn’t happen to me.
‘I wear suncream every day now, whatever the weather is like.’