WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
A British woman who used tanning beds for years later developed skin cancer on her forehead that, after it was removed, left her with a “Harry Potter”-looking scar.
Erica Brook, 43, told the U.K.-based outlet SWNS she first started using tanning beds as a teenager and rarely — if ever — used sunscreen while on vacation.
When she reached her 30s, Brook claims she cut back on her tanning bed use, going to the salon twice a week rather than four to five times.
"I noticed deep lines had started to appear on my face as well as age spots. I realized I needed to start looking after my skin and used high factor sun-cream on my face to try to halt the aging process from then on,” Brook told SWNS.
In 2017, Brook said she was at the gym with a friend when she noticed a small lump on her forehead that “looked a bit like a big mole,” she said. The mom of three added the lump would “scab for no apparent reason” and was sometimes sore to the touch.
The lump later grew in size, prompting her to see her doctor, who reportedly assured her “it was nothing to worry about.”
But Brook’s concerns continued to escalate, leading her to see a dermatologist in October 2018. Her lump was subsequently biopsied and in early 2019, Brook said she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
"It was a complete bombshell,” she said of her diagnosis, but noted it was a “huge relief when they told me it hadn’t spread any further than the mark on my head.”
Doctors removed the lump, and the zig-zag shape doctors used to cut the affected area out of her head left Brook with a large “Harry Potter”-like scar, photos show. Brook said she required 20 stitches.
“I don't think anyone will ever understand the sadness I felt when I looked in the mirror for the first time the next morning,” she said of her reaction. “That’s when it really hit me and I had a bit of a meltdown.”
"To see the damage that I was left with from the skin cancer and know it was caused [by] long-term use of sunbeds and sunbathing was heartbreaking. What I am now left with is a permanent reminder of those sunbed visits and sun cream neglect. I am also left with soreness and pain across my head due to nerve damage and the healing process,” she continued.
"Thankfully, I can take a deep breath and remind myself that I am free from cancer — I am the lucky one,” she added.
Skin cells are damaged when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, which is present in both the sun and tanning beds. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who use tanning beds before the age of 35 “increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.”
A person’s risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the type of cancer Brook was diagnosed with, increases by 29 percent after just one tanning bed use, per the American Academy of Dermatology.
"I want to raise awareness of how damaging sunbeds are,” Brook told SWNS. “I would urge tan-lovers everywhere to do the same and switch to the bottle. You don’t want to end up like me."