Claire Culbert died in December 2013, 13 years after originally being diagnosed with melanoma, and her aunt Diane Cannon is backing the Melanoma UK campaign for a total ban on salons. Tony McDonough reports
A Liverpool entrepreneur who lost her niece to skin cancer at the age of 38 is backing a campaign for a complete ban on tanning salons.
Claire Culbert died in December 2013, 13 years after originally being diagnosed with melanoma. Claire had been a keen user of sunbeds but stopped using them following the diagnosis.
The mole on her back was cut out leaving a huge scar and three years later she was given the ‘all clear’ by the hospital. However, 10 years later, following the appearance of a lump under her arm, she was diagnosed as stage four melanoma and died shortly afterwards.
Rising cancer rates
Business consultant and Liverpool representative for the charity Melanoma UK, Diane Cannon, said skin cancer rates had doubled in Liverpool since 2001 and believes sunbed shops are a major factor in the rise.
In Australia, tanning shops are now banned, and Ms Cannon says the UK must follow suit. She added: “We may have a policy that stops under 18s using sunbeds in the UK but if we are ever going to stop people dying from this disease then we need to look hard at the current policy.”
This month Australian skin cancer survivor, Jay Allen, visited the UK to back Melanoma UK’s campaign for a total ban on tanning salons. He was just 32 when he was diagnosed with melanoma.
The former truck driver is described as a “typical Aussie bloke” – a husband, dad, son and mate to many. He underwent immediate surgery and treatment. 10 years on he is fighting fit – and is now fighting for another cause – to help raise awareness and find a cure for melanoma.
Mr Allen is Melanoma Institute Australia’s Community Coordinator, a role which sees him visit schools and community groups around the country to share his story and raise awareness about sun safe behaviour.
Health at risk
Gillian Nuttall, founder and chief executive of charity Melanoma UK, added: “It’s shocking that, even though we are more educated about skin cancer than ever before, people are still choosing to put their health at risk for the sake of a tan.
“Most people think a little sunburn is harmless, but the second your skin starts to turn pink, the damage is already done. In the majority of cases, melanoma is preventable if we protect ourselves properly. Sunbeds put us directly in the firing line for skin damage.”
Ms Cannon continues to be frustrated in Liverpool as what she sees as a casual attitude to tanned skin and a lack of awareness of how dangerous it can be. She explained: “Claire’s death had such a massive impact on the family and I just don’t want anyone going through what our family has suffered and continues to suffer.
“I often hear people saying ‘I am just popping on the beds for a few minutes to top up my tan before my holiday or help with my skin condition’ – or just because they want to feel better. All I want to do is scream at them to stop as they have no idea what damage these beds can do.”