Deborah Meaden has credited her makeup artist with spotting a sign of skin cancer, which led to her diagnosis.
That The Dragon’s Lair star, 63, revealed she didn’t pay too much attention to sunscreen before her diagnosis and admitted she didn’t wear sunscreen every day when she was on holiday or at the beach.
“I didn’t treat [being outside] with the same respect as sunbathing,” she told host Vogue Williams on Boots’ Taboo Talk podcast.
“I was aware of that [how much the sun could damage my skin]I’m fairly fair skinned but oddly enough I never really got sunburnt and I think that was a problem for me.
“I kind of thought I was immune to that… I thought maybe I look fair, but obviously my skin can handle it. So it was a bit of a shock when I realized that some damage had been done.”
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Meaden further revealed that it was her makeup artist on the BBC show who first noticed a possible sign of skin cancer.
“I filmed The Dragon’s Lairand I don’t get breakouts, but my makeup artist noticed what looked like a tiny little white hair that had been on my face for about six weeks,” she continued.
“And she kept saying, ‘That’s not right, Deborah,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s really weird, I don’t usually get pimples.’ I wanted to go to Africa and thought before I go I just have to get it checked out.
“So I sent a picture to my doctor who said it could be something, it couldn’t but it could be something. Then he got me an appointment at a local hospital and I went and they said, ‘You have squamous cell carcinoma.’
According to the NHS, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer that starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for around 20 in 100 skin cancers.
It often appears as a firm pink lump with a rough or crusty surface that can be tender to the touch, bleed easily, and may develop into an ulcer.
It can be easily treated if caught early.
Meaden said she had the cancer removed after returning from her trip to Africa and now hopes to raise awareness of the dangers of sun damage and make people aware of some of the signs.
“If I say I was lucky, we caught it incredibly early. I’m evangelical now about telling people if you have a little weird pimple that won’t go away, don’t just think it’s a pimple,” she added.
“I’ve always looked for moles, I know all the rules about moles, I’ve never looked for anything that actually looked like a whitehead.”
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The entrepreneur admits she might never have spotted the sign if it wasn’t for her makeup artist.
While she is currently “completely clear” of skin cancer, apart from a few scaly patches which are being treated with cream, she has been told she may be at risk of developing another.
Meaden says she’s now doing everything she can to protect her skin from the sun.
“My prognosis is factor 50, I always wear a hat when I’m outside and I take care of my skin. If I get something that doesn’t feel right, I’m not just going to live it and expect it to go away, I’ll have it checked out. I have regular skin exams all over my skin,” she continued.
What is melanoma skin cancer?
Non-melanoma skin cancer includes:
According to Cancer Research UK, most non-melanoma skin cancers most commonly develop on skin that is exposed to the sun.
There is a high cure rate for these cancers, with most people diagnosed requiring only minor surgery without further treatment.
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Around 156,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, but Cancer Research UK believes the number could be higher as they are easily treated and cured. This makes it by far the most common type of cancer.
Earlier this year it was revealed that skin cancer cases in England have reached record levels, with around one in five people being affected at some point in their lives.
According to figures analyzed by NHS Digital and the British Association of Dermatologists, 224,000 skin cancer cases were registered in England in 2019 and more than 1.4 million between 2013 and 2019.
Experts believe an aging population and improvements in the way cancer is reported are behind the rise.
Increasing solar radiation and holiday trips abroad can also be to blame.
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Prevent non-melanoma skin cancer
Although melanoma skin cancer isn’t always preventable, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it, including avoiding excessive UV light exposure.
The NHS recommends protecting yourself from sunburn by using a high SPF sunscreen, dressing appropriately in the sun and limiting the time spent in the sun during the hottest part of the day.
They also recommend avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps.
Examining your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer can help diagnose it early and increase your chances of successful treatment.