'Don't dice with death by using sunbeds' - says Sunderland skin cancer support group

The two-tone blemish on Cameron Quigley's head was a telltale sign that the 21-year-old had contracted melanoma.

Friday, 21st September 2018, 4:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 1:52 am
The blemish on Cameron Quigley's head before his operation.
The blemish on Cameron Quigley's head before his operation.

Nor is the disease - the fifth most common strain of cancer in this country - any respecter of age.

Kerry Rafferty, co-founder of Sunderland support group MelanomaMe, said: "While 21 is a terribly young age to get melanoma, it is a young person's cancer and affecting more people under the age of 50 and in particular the 15-30 age group."

The blemish on Cameron Quigley's head before his operation.

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Kerry founded the organisation last year after she battled stage one of the illness - the least severe of four stages - in 2015.

As well as working with a host of major North-East employers to educate staff about its dangers, the group has also offered regular counselling to around 200 people and their families across the region.

Kerry, 40, from Harraton, Washington, added: "We are also in discussion with nearly 50 people who we are offering advice to. Many are from across the country from Kent to Scotland."

After learning about Cameron's illness by chance on social media, the group contacted him and has offered him regular support in the aftermath of his July operation.

Kerry, who needed a two-tone mark removed from her back, said: "I know myself it can a lonely place and wanted to let him know that we were here to offer advice.

"He's a lovely lad and we are so happy that he has crossed the line from being a client to helping us."

Cameron, a former pupil at St Robert of Newminster School, in Washington, is now repaying the group's help by joining in presentations it makes to organisations such as clinical commissioning groups, beauticians and schools.

He said: "I think at first people think I've just come along to help out and are then surprised when I'm introduced and start talking about my own experiences.

"My escape is working with MelanomaMe because I like to help other people and my story is helping people to realise that you don't need to be scared to get that mole checked out and that trip to the GP might actually save your life.

"People don't realise how bad this disease is until they have it themselves so prevention is better than cure."

Kerry, who has been clear of cancer since her operation, added: "He's been very lucky that a trip to the hairdresser's has uncovered the mark.

"While we don't for certain what has caused his cancer, it is likely that his use of sunbeds was a contributory factor.

"My advice is to stay away from sunbeds as you are dicing with death. You are exposed to high doses of UV light which are causing more and more damage to your skin."