A MUM has been left with a hole in her head after her sunbed obsession almost killed her.

Nickie Murtagh, 37, who battled skin cancer, is now dedicated to warning others of the deadly disease.

The Londoner started to use sun beds in her early 20s as her friend owned a sunbed shop.

She steadily increased her use until she was hooked – jumping on the sunbed up to twice a week for 8-12 minutes.

In 2016, Nickie noticed a bald patch the size of a little fingernail along the exposed parting in her blonde hair.

Nickie previously told The Sun: “I booked an appointment with my GP, and was told I had a small cyst that was nothing to worry about, and could safely remain untreated.

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"But over the next two years, it continued slowly growing. Eventually it was the size of a one pence coin.”

After her friends and family urged her to get the strange lump checked again, but her GP still believed the problem was "cosmetic".

She told NeedToKnow.online: "The doctor said she would refer me due to the size, but not to expect an appointment as she thought it was fine. "

Three months later, Nickie went to her appointment. By May 2018, she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

BCC is one of the most common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Nickie, who is mum to Sophie, 19, Ruby, 15, and Ryan, 13, said: "I work at The Royal Marsden Hospital so I've seen lots of cancer, but that word sends chills.

"We didn’t want to even tell the kids as we knew they wouldn’t be able to see the past that word."

Doctors removed the cancerous lump and skin around it during a two-hour procedure in December 2018, for which Nickie was awake for.

A skin graft was taken from her thigh to cover the hole in her head.

“Afterwards, I was left with felt like a sizeable crater on my head,” Nickie said. 

"When I held up my phone and took a picture, so I could see what it looked like, I was shocked by how much of my scalp had been removed.

“Then the hole was packed with the tissue from my leg and a dressing was applied while it healed.

“But thankfully it was good news was, when the tissue was examined, it was clear of cancer.”

However, after her surgery, the mum-of-three said she "felt depressed" and feared she was a "ticking timebomb".

She said: "I’m always worried about a return as skin cancer is usually recurrent. The fear is real and it never goes away.

"I now have regular checks of my skin and moles, I am left with huge scars and awful skin on my face due to sun damage, especially melasma.”

Melasma is a skin condition characterised by brown or blue-grey patches or freckle-like spots, which pop up on Nickie every time the sun comes out.

Nickie said: "I have tried so many treatments for this but nothing works, which shows the damage I have done to it.

"I don’t like how I look now – but that’s my battle scars and forever reminder that I have my life so will do everything I can to help push this horrid cancer awareness."

Nickie is now dedicated to raising awareness of the harms of sun exposure and sunbeds.

Her own cancer, BCC, typically appears as a skin-coloured bump that can look pearly and shiny, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

On brown and black skin, the bump often looks brown or glossy black.

Melanoma skin cancer, the most deadly form, most commonly causes a mole to change.

Most experts recommend using the simple “ABCDE” rule to look for symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.

Nickie said she often "forgot to wear sun cream" and was "too vain to wear hats".

She said in 2019: “I knew all about being safe from the sun. But my failure to apply that knowledge to myself, has left me with a hole in my head and scarring to my leg.

“At first I kept thinking, I am not the ‘typical’ skin cancer patient who has taken a lot of holidays abroad and been a sun worshipper.

"But now I realise, there is no typical skin cancer patient."

Nickie regularly posts her quest to improve her skin on TikTok, while also warning others not to make her mistake.

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In a recent video, she shocked viewers by turning the camera onto the hole in her head just after warning "stay off the sunbeds and use SPF".

After showing the damage to her face, Nickie, said, “while we are at it, let’s check out the skin cancer”, before tilting her scalp towards the camera.

Dying For A Tan

Fabulous' Dying For A Tan campaign raises awareness about the dangers of using sunbeds, which can raise your risk of skin cancer and cause premature ageing.

There are an estimated 7,000 tanning salons in Britain, with some offering sessions from as little as 50p a minute.

Kids as young as EIGHT are using sunbeds, with seemingly little understanding they are playing Russian Roulette with their health.

According to Cancer Research UK, Melanoma skin cancer risk is 16-25 per cent higher in people who have used a sunbed (at any age), compared to people who have never used sunbeds. 

This is because sunbeds pelt the skin with such strong UV rays which increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. 

Just 20 minutes on one is comparable to four hours in the sun – with many stronger than Mediterranean rays at midday.

In many cases the damage is invisible until it’s too late, as it can take up to 20 years to become apparent.

Around 16,000 new melanoma skin cancer cases are diagnosed in the UK every year – that's 44 every day.

There are around 2,300 melanoma skin cancer deaths annually – that's more than six every day.

It’s part of the reason the World Health Organisation has deemed sunbeds are as dangerous as smoking.

This is why Fabulous says it is time to stop Dying For A Tan.

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