Malignant melanoma - the most devastating form of skin cancer linked to exposure to the sun - is now more common in young women than young men.
Unlike other skin cancers, it can spread to the blood stream and major organs of the body. According to Cancer Research UK, two people aged between 15 and 34 are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every day, with cases among young women on the rise.
Anna White, who used sun beds regularly in her twenties and thirties, says she is lucky to be alive after being diagnosed with the “invisible enemy” ten years ago.
This month, The Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund, a Mid Sussex based charity which Anna helps to promote, is raising awareness of the dangers of using sun-beds and going out in the sun without sun-screen.
Anna’s message is clear: If you catch skin cancer early it can be cured but don’t risk getting it in the first place.
Anna said: “I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when I was 42. I noticed a mole on my arm had changed and after a biopsy I received the diagnosis.
“In one breath the dermatologist was talking about my arm and in the other breath he was saying it was the type of cancer that could spread to any part of my body.
“I had just got married and was undergoing fertility treatment. All that was put on hold.
“People don’t realise the savage difference between malignant melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
“Luckily, they caught it early and I now have a beautiful seven-year-old son but every year I go for checks-ups thinking about this invisible enemy, which is like a ticking time-bomb.”
Anna has a large scar on her arm where they removed the mole and surrounding tissue - a constant reminder of her sun-worshipping days.
Anna said: “I used to go on sun beds sometimes two or three times a week over the winter, not realising the risks. I don’t know how I could have been so stupid.”
The skin cancer awareness charity Anna is helping to promote is based in East Grinstead, with another office in Kent.
It was set up by Harry Townsend in memory of his wife Myfanwy, a former conductor of the Forest Row Royal National Lifeboat Institution Choir.
Myfanwy died of malignant melanoma in 1999.
You can find out how to protect yourself from harmful rays and more about the Melanoma Research Fund by visiting: melanoma