'I Want To Get The Message Out': Tanning Bed Addict Opens Up About Developing Skin Cancer On Face

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Self-proclaimed “tanorexic” Jo Irving has sworn off tanning beds for life after the habit led to a skin cancer growth on her face.

Irving, 32, started using tanning beds at age 14 and says she used to go up to five times per week.

“I was addicted to being brown,” she said. “I wouldn’t go on a night out unless I’d had a sunbed. If I went on holiday and didn’t come back with a tan, I would be disappointed about the whole holiday. All my friends used to joke and say I had ‘tanorexia’ because I could never see my true color.”

Irving had heard the warnings about the dangers of tanning, but paid them no attention until 2012 when she noticed a “pearly white boil” on the side of her nose. She waited a few months to see if the boil would go away on it’s own, but it didn’t. That’s when she asked her doctor about it.

“When I got in to see the doctor, he looked at it straight away and called it a ‘rodent ulcer,’” she told MailOnline. “He said, ‘I don’t know what your relationship with the sunbeds is but I suggest you never use one again.’”

Irving was put under a local anesthetic while doctors removed the ulcer and placed a skin graft in its place. She says she’ll never forget the sounds and smells she experienced during the procedure.

“Under the local anesthetic, I could just feel the tugging and pulling, which is a horrible feeling,” Irving said. “I could smell the burning of my flesh and because it was behind my ear, I could hear every little thing. The skin graft didn’t take, and I was left with a hole in my face, which took over five weeks to heal.”

(via The Daily Mail)

Irving is fully recovered from the procedure now, and she vows to never hop in a tanning bed again. When she looks back on old pictures of her deeply-bronzed self, Irving said she thinks she looks “ridiculous.”

“I want to get the message out about sunbeds,” she says. “And to make people aware it’s not just moles they should check. They should look for other changes in their skin too. When I think about how often I went on sunbeds since my teens, I feel embarrassed. I see people coming out of sunbed salons and I feel sick. People don’t realize the damage they are doing. I suppose I thought it would never happen to me. But it did.”

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. People who use tanning beds are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who don't. 

Sources: MailOnline, American Academy of Dermatology