Liz Yeates spent her childhood summers outdoors without sun cream. She frequently got burned, and as she got older she used sunbeds and was a self-confessed sun worshipper when abroad.
n the late 1990s, during a visit to her GP, it was pointed out that she had a lot of moles and was advised to get them checked.
This resulted in the removal of 13 moles from her shoulder, stomach, legs and even the soles of her feet. Over the next few years, she also had several others removed.
Then, in 2006, she noticed one on her left thigh that had darkened and “grown a tail”, so she made an appointment with a skin specialist, who removed it immediately.
Ms Yeates, who is CEO of the cancer advice and support charity the Marie Keating Foundation, said: “I got the shock of my life when she told me that if I had waited another six weeks to see her my leg would have had to be amputated – and had I waited another six months the melanoma would have spread throughout my body, which would have been fatal.
“I was one of the lucky ones. Since then, I attend regular mole mapping sessions and have had a further 13 moles removed from my face, legs, feet and stomach – bringing my total to 31.
“I am now the lady with multiple scars and my bikini-wearing days are long over, but I have learned to take skin cancer very seriously.
“I’m constantly checking my siblings and my own kids for any signs and am a complete nag when it comes to putting on sun cream, wearing hats and sitting in the shade rather than in direct sunlight.
“Skin cancer is entirely preventable, so people really shouldn’t take chances.”
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with nearly 13,000 cases diagnosed each year.
This month sees the start of the nationwide SunSmart campaign to alert people to the dangers of too much sun exposure and the importance of wearing sunscreen.
Bernie Carter, the assistant director of nursing at the Marie Keating Foundation, said some people are more at risk of skin cancer than others, but it is vital to be aware of tell-tale signs.
“The older you are, the more likely you are to develop non-melanoma skin cancer, but skin cancers can develop in younger people too, especially melanoma,” she said.
“Other risk factors include a personal or family history of skin cancer, having a large number of moles or a fair skin type and colour, although it is important to remember that people with all skin colour can get skin cancer.”
Information on the signs of skin cancer is available on the HSE and Marie Keating Foundation websites.