Woman shares skin cancer photos to show effects of tanning habit

- Judy Cloud, 49, spent a lot of time in the sun as a child. The Indianapolis, Indiana, legal assistant grew up playing outside, wearing only SPF 2 or 4. In her 20s, she visited tanning beds about four times a year to get a glow before vacations, too. Despite a family history of skin cancer, Cloud never thought she was at risk. Today, she knows that the time she spent outside without adequate SPF and her tanning bed sessions were dangerous—because she has skin cancer.

When she visited a dermatologist in 1995 to get what she thought was a scab checked out, her long battle with skin cancer began. Skin cancer is an abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells, most often trigged by the ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It’s the most common form of cancer, and the Skin Cancer Foundation reports one in five Americans will have skin cancer in their lifetime. According to the foundation, people who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk for melanoma—the most dangerous type of skin cancer—by 75 percent. And, shockingly, a study found the number of skin cancer cases caused by indoor tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

To date, the mother of two has had four surgeries to remove spots of basal cell carcinoma, which the Skin Cancer Foundation says is the most common form of skin cancer. It’s caused by long-term sun exposure, and an estimated 2.8 million cases of basal cell carcinoma were diagnosed in the US in 2010. It’s often regarded as the least dangerous type of skin cancer, as it rarely spreads, but it can become life-threatening if left untreated.

Cloud’s latest surgery in September lasted three hours and was her most invasive to date, with doctors removing 23 spots of skin cancer found on her face, chest, arms, and legs. Doctors had to cut into a muscle in her mouth and move a nerve in her head to remove the cancer. She couldn’t move or eat whole foods for two weeks after the surgery, and now, five months later, she still hasn’t regained feeling in her left cheek or from her forehead up to her scalp.

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