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‘I sunbathed to get a tan like then Love Islanders – then I got skin cancer at 25’

Content warning: This article contains an image of a wound following surgery which some may find distressing

As a young, carefree soul, Hannah Bowen hadn’t given much thought to sun safety messages.

The golf professional says she regularly didn’t wear sun cream to emulate the look of the bronzed beauties she saw on Instagram and TV shows like Love Island.

But the 27-year-old realised the hard way the importance of protecting your skin, after discovering a mole on her stomach had become cancerous.

With ITV programme’s 2024 summer series about to launch on Monday 3 June, it highlights the pressure a young and impressionable viewers face over their appearance.

Hannah, from Swansea, hadn’t even noticed her mole had changed and it was only spotted by her GP because she was wearing a crop top when she’d gone in over another matter.

Hannah Bowen was just 25 when she was diagnosed with melanoma (Photo: Hannah Bowen)

She was then diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread to other areas of the body.

She said: “If I didn’t look tanned and have that sun-kissed glow then I felt I didn’t look good enough. I never used to wear sun cream or a hat or stay in the shade. I’m very lucky that it was caught early and hadn’t spread.”

‘They said this is really serious’

There are around 17,500 new melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK every year, according to Cancer Research UK, making it the 5th most prevalent cancer in the country.

Around 85 per cent of melanoma are caused by excessive exposure to UV light, which comes from the sun or sunbeds.

It can happen at any age, but it’s more common in older people. However, unlike most other cancer types, it’s also quite common in younger people.

Hannah, who teaches golf, had gone to her doctor to renew her pill prescription when it was suggested she come back for tests.

“I look back now and think, what if I hadn’t had gone into the GP then? What if I hadn’t have been wearing a crop top? They did a biopsy and I had a scan and they said I had melanoma and needed a small op.”

Medics asked Hannah to come in for the procedure in a couple of days but she didn’t grasp the urgency of the situation. “I asked if I could have it done later on in the year because I didn’t want to have a scar while wearing my bikini with friends over the summer.

“They said no, this is really serious. I didn’t take it all in at first and then it hit me.”

Hannah Bowen’s small wound after the op to remove her cancerous mole (Photo: Hannah Bowen)

It’s been two years since she was diagnosed and fortunately, the cancer has not returned. “I always use factor 50 now and I urge my friends to do the same. I much more aware now about checking my body in general including for lumps in my breasts.”

Knowledge gaps

Hannah is hoping to educate young people on the risks of melanoma by working with cider company Kopparberg which has launched its own SPF50 sunscreen and partnered up with UK charity Melanoma Fund for a Drink Responsibly This Summer campaign.

New research from Kopparberg revealed a positive change in Brits’ attitudes towards sun protection, as over half confess to taking it more seriously than five years ago.

The study, which polled 2,000 people, found nearly nine in 10 Brits apply sunscreen at least once daily and over two-thirds of Brits spend only up to four hours outside on a sunny day.

However, while awareness of the risks of UV exposure has improved, knowledge gaps remain with over half of Brits unaware that sun damage can occur even on cloudy days or through clothing, as believed by nearly a third of Brits.

Michelle Baker, CEO of Melanoma Fund, said: “Melanoma is dangerous yet mostly preventable with considered sun safety practices. This includes seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying SPF30+ sunscreen, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 11am to 3pm.

“Staying hydrated is crucial, and if you are drinking alcohol, alternating it with water can help maintain hydration levels under the sun.”

Sun safety advice

Melanoma skin cancer can start anywhere on the skin. It may start:

  • In a mole
  • On a patch of normal skin
  • On the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
  • Under the nails

To stay safe, Melanoma UK recommend:

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