Former Model Develops Fatal Eye Cancer After Refusing To Wear Goggles On Sunbed

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A former model has developed fatal eye cancer after refusing to wear protective goggles while frequently using a sunbed - she has been given just weeks to live.

Mother-of-one Debi Gibson, who once starred in Eastenders, decided against the protective eye wear to ensure her modelling photographs would be free from tan lines.

The 42-year-old has now been given just weeks to live after the cancer spread to her liver.

eye cancer model

Now Debi, who bought the bed when she was just 14 having saved up with money from a paper round, is calling for them to be banned.

She moved to London from her home in Bentilee, Staffs., when she was 18 to pursue her career, eventually appearing as Cat Slater's mum in a flashback on the hit soap.

Debi, who also starred alongside Madonna in musical Evita and acted as a body double for Mel C gave up tanning on the bed in 2005 after hearing stories of others being struck down with cancer.

But after suffering blurred vision in April 2012 she was told she had a choroidal melanoma, a type of cancer that affects the eye.

A year later surgeons removed her left eye after chemotherapy failed to kill the deadly growth, which was covering half of her eyeball.

Earlier this year she was handed the devastating news that the disease had spread to her liver.

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Speaking yesterday she said: "I want something good to come out of my death. All this because I wanted to be brown. I would like sunbeds to be banned.

"There is this pressure when you are modelling or in the acting profession to be the perfect colour.

"I saved up the money myself when I was 14 to buy a sunbed and had it at my parent's house. I used it all the time, back then there weren't any guidelines around, people thought this was the safest way to tan."

She added: " I eventually became a personal trainer at a gym and I used to use the sunbed there as well.

"They came with goggles, but those left you with ugly tan lines so I didn't use them, I never thought that would kill me.

“I moved to London when I was 18 to become an actress and a model. There was so much pressure to look tanned, I went through that with the film industry.

“Then around 2005, there was a lot of bad press around sunbeds, so I stopped using them."

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"In 2012 I woke up and found everything was blurry, I went to my doctors and he sent me to the hospital.

"They did a scan and sat me down and told me that half of my eye was covered in a tumour.

"It's rare, only around one in every six million people get it, the doctors said it is only seen in sunny countries and they only thing they could think caused it was my use of sunbeds without the protection.

"They tried chemo but eventually they told me it hadn't worked as they had hoped.

"I was already going blind at this point, so it felt easier when they told me they were going to take the eye out.

"It happened pretty quickly. They told me I needed the operation in the October, and it was removed in the November. It was a horrendous time.

"Then after about a year I went back for another scan and they told me it had spread to my liver and I was going to die.

"At first I went mad, completely mad, I pulled my daughter straight out of school and we all went on holiday.

"But after a little while I came to terms with it. The doctors have me on a trial drug and are giving me chemo to shrink the tumour.

"That could give me months or years more time.

“Now I am going to have to leave my daughter behind. She knows it all. She doesn’t understand everything, she just knows that mummy is going to go to heaven soon, that mummy has a nasty disease called cancer and it is going to kill her."

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Partner Darren Gibson said: “It has been horrendous. Nurses have been coming out to see her from the Douglas Macmillan Hospice and they have been fantastic."

Debi is an amazing woman. She never seems scared, I’m sure she’s struggling inside sometimes, but she is an actress.”

Members of The Sunbed Association (TSA) agree to comply with the Sunbed Code. It includes making sure sunbeds meet European standards, that trained staff are on duty at all times and that protective goggles are always worn. A new law introduced in 2011 means it is illegal for under-18s to use sunbeds.

A TSA spokesman said: “Millions of people use sunbeds safely and responsibly following correct usage guidance, which includes the wearing of protective eyewear.

“Therefore, to call for a ban on a product or service when it has been used inappropriately is unfortunately misguided and even more so when self-diagnosis on the cause of a disease has taken place.

“Education about responsible use of sunbeds and sunbathing in general is of course very important, which is why we would always recommend anyone using a sunbed does so in a Sunbed Association member salon, where they will receive correct advice and information from properly trained staff.

“UV penetrates the skin, so it is insufficient either on a sunbed or when sunbathing just to close your eyes, as this will not protect them.”