A sunbed addict who visited tanning salons up to five times a week - even when she was nine months pregnant - is warning others about the risks after she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
Jo Irving, 32, a self-confessed 'Tanorexic', started using sunbeds when she was just 14 years old but says she would never go near one again after doctors gave her the devastating news in April last year.
The mum-of-one, who wouldn't go on a night out without visiting a tanning salon, went to the doctors after she noticed a blemish on her face that wouldn't heal.
After being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma - the same type of skin cancer Hollywood star Hugh Jackman recently revealed he had on his nose - Jo was left with a hole in her face after undergoing gruelling treatment.
She had the spot, a “rodent ulcer” removed, along with the tissue around it and a skin graft using skin from behind her ear to repair the damage.
Now, after spending more than half her life using sunbeds, Jo, who was addicted to being brown, says she will never go near one again.
The flight attendant, from Blackpool, Lancs., said: “I first noticed the lump four years ago. It was a small boil under the skin with a pearly white head on the top.
“It didn't bother me in the slightest at first. I didn't think much of it. The only time I thought about it was in the morning when I looked in the mirror to put my make-up on and then my make-up would cover it.
“I thought it would go over time but my boyfriend, Bobby, started mentioning it quite a lot to me and would tell me to go and get it checked out."
Even when the lump started bleeding Jo says she still didn't feel the need for any concern.
She says she first mentioned it to a doctor when she went for her post-natal check-up with her son Ryley, now two, in August 2012.
“The doctor told me to just see how it goes, but if I see any changes in it and it keeps bothering me, I should go back," Jo said.
“His reaction to it didn't give me much cause for concern. I thought I was making something of nothing. It wasn't until March the next year that I went for an appointment."
Jo says she started thinking things could be serious when she was sent to Clifton Hospital, Lancs., in April 2012 for an appointment with a specialist.
She said: “When I got in to see the doctor, he looked at it straight away and called it a 'rodent ulcer.'
“He said, ‘I don't know what your relationship with the sunbeds is but I suggest you never use one again.' I had two plastic surgeons working on me at Royal Preston Hospital - one working on my face and the other taking skin from behind my ear.
"Under the local anaesthetic, I could just feel the tugging and pulling, which is a horrible feeling. I could smell the burning of my flesh and because it was behind my ear, I could every little thing.
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“The skin graft didn't take, and I was left with a hole in my face, which took over five weeks to heal. And my ear was swollen from having the skin removed, and so painful I couldn't bear for it to be touched."
Jo had been going on sunbeds since she was fourteen, at one point averaging five times a week, and has been left with a small white scar from the skin graft.
“I was addicted to being brown. I wouldn't go on a night out unless I'd had a sunbed. If I went on holiday and didn't come back with a tan, I would be disappointed about the whole holiday.
“I even went on when I was pregnant with Ryley, for the full nine months."
Jo says now the ulcer is removed, the cancer is all gone, but now she’s had it, there's no reason why it can't come back again.
She said: “Luckily, it was the least harmful form of skin cancer, basal cell skin carcinoma.
"I decided to look at it in a positive way. It’s a wake-up call. It means I haven't used a sunbed since and I never will again. I always use a factor 30 or 50 when I'm out in the sun now.
“I used to use a factor 15 on my face so it didn't go red, but on my body I'd start with a factor two, and a few days later I'd move to an oil.
“Now, I look back at pictures of myself when I went on the sunbeds all the time, and I looked ridiculous.
“All my friends used to joke and say I had 'tanorexia' because I could never see my true colour. I just thought they were jealous of my tan."
Jo, who is engaged to her partner Bobby Jones, added: "I hope sharing my story helps others.
“I want to get the message out about sunbeds. And to make people aware it's not just moles they should check. They should look for other changes in their skin too.
"When I think about how often I went on sunbeds since my teens, I feel embarrassed. I see people coming out of sunbed salons and I feel sick. People don't realise the damage they are doing.
“I suppose I thought it would never happen to me. But it did.”
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