Growing up in the West of Scotland Louise Brown jokes that she didn’t see the sun very often and when they did they made the most of it!
“Sunny days were a chance to get a tan so – as sun cream was hardly heard of – we would go out and sunbathe for as long as possible with no protection at all.
“Silly as it sounds, some of my friends used to buy the small bottles of olive oil you got from the chemist and plaster that all over their skin,” she said.
Now 67-year-old Louise, of Petersfield in Hampshire, is paying the price of her days as a sun-lover and she is worried that her friends and even her grown-up children may have suffered from bad sun-bathing habits of the past.
After noticing rashes on her legs, Louise was persuaded by her daughter to visit her GP. From there she met consultant dermatologist Dr Hywel Cooper at Spire Portsmouth Hospital where a biopsy revealed she was suffering from three different sun related pre-cancerous and cancerous skin conditions.
Louise had Basal Cell Carcinoma on her upper arm and a mixture of Actinic or Solar Keratoses (dry scaly patches of skin caused by years of sun exposure) and Bowen's Disease (a slow-growing precursor of skin cancer) on her lower legs.
“I was really shocked at the news but, thinking about it rationally, I did spend too much time in the sun in my younger days.
“When sun damage became much more talked about we increased the strength of sun creams but I think the damage had already been done,” explained Louise.
“I really do worry about my children, who are now adults, because I am aware that I did not protect them properly and I know of occasions when they got sunburnt.”
“People don’t realise that it’s not just sunbathing or suntan beds that do the damage,” says Dr Hywel Cooper, consultant dermatologist practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital. “Being outdoors, playing sports, walking the dogs or gardening that also counts, and these are common activities when people easily forget to use sun protection.”
As for Louise, she explains: “I have discussed my condition with many of my friends and we are all concerned that we knew nothing of skin cancer when we were younger.
“I’m pleased to report that our children are much more vigilant with their children and all use very high factors to protect them from the harmful rays.
“Nowadays, even the moisturiser I use on my face has some protection in it and I use that even on cloudy wet days here. I would recommend that everyone uses sun screen at all times, summer and winter.”