A tanning addict claims an app warned her she may have skin cancer after doctors allegedly dismissed an unusual mole as being benign.
Susanna Hancock, 50, was so desperate for a golden glow she spent £50 ($60) a month renting a sunbed for her spare room every winter.
The mother-of-two, of Sale, Greater Manchester, would even lay under the intense UV rays twice a day for up to an hour at a time.
In 2017, she spotted a mole on her calf had become bigger and changed colour. She alleges both a dermatologist and GP said it was nothing to worry about.
Two years later, in January 2019, she downloaded the app SkinVision. After scanning the mole, the app flagged her as high risk and recommended she see a doctor.
This led to Ms Hancock being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. She had the mole removed in February but has been warned the cancer could return at any time.
Ms Hancock is now warning ‘sun damage can and will kill you silently’ and has urged people to ‘stick to fake tan’.
Susanna Hancock (left) claims an app warned her she may have skin cancer after doctors dismissed an unusual mole as benign. The mother downloaded the app SkinVision in January this year. After scanning the blemish on her calf, the app warned she was ‘high risk’ (seen right)
Ms Hancock took the app to her GP and was urgently referred to hospital. She was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and had the mole removed in February (pictured post surgery)
Speaking of her tanning habit, Ms Hancock said: ‘In between holidays, I would have a sunbed rented and put in my spare bedroom.
‘I would use it twice a day sometimes spending at least an hour each time cooking away listening to the Top 40.’
Ms Hancock blames a lack of awareness on sun safety during her childhood for her sunbed use.
‘As someone who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, being “sun safe” didn’t exist,’ she said.
‘Our motto was always, “burn first then you’ll get really brown”. On holidays, my friends and I would go and lie in the sun all day drinking.
‘We’d start on the factor 15 and then just switch to oil – to us, suncream meant we wouldn’t get a tan.
‘We were like rotisserie chickens, turning regularly to get that even all-round glow.’
Ms Hancock (pictured left recently) was so desperate for a golden glow she spent £50 ($60) a month renting a sunbed for her home every winter. She downloaded SkinVision (right) after her daughter Tegan, 16, became concerned about one of her moles
The mole on Ms Hancock’s calf was not her first sun scare. In 2017 she had a benign blemish removed from the sole of her left foot.
It was around this time she noticed a mole on her right leg was unusually pink and growing.
Ms Hancock claims she visited doctors in 2017 and 2018, with them both dismissing the blemish as nothing to worry about.
‘I showed the mole to the consultant dermatologist while he was doing the procedure on my foot and he said it was fine,’ she said.
‘He didn’t seem to look at it properly, not even using the dermascope.
‘I went to my GP again about six months later for something else and I asked them to have a look at the mole again as the colour and shape had changed.
‘The GP ran her finger over it and said it was fine and nothing to worry about.’
Ms Hancock had the mole removed (pictured left post surgery) and required no further treatment, but has been warned the cancer could return at anytime. The surgical equipment is pictured right. The mother-of-two worried she may have ‘have her leg cut off’
WHAT IS SKINVISION?
SkinVision is a mobile phone app that assesses a user’s skin cancer risk by analysing their moles.
After downloading the app, which costs £1.99 for a single use and £21.99 for a year’s plan, it asks questions about the user’s skin type, ranging from very fair to dark brown.
The user then takes three pictures of each of their chosen moles on their phone.
These images are run through an algorithm that assesses factors such as asymmetry and shape.
An assessment is made within 30 seconds, with ‘all clear’ requiring no action, ‘medium risk’ meaning the mole needs monitoring and ‘high risk’ requiring the user visits a doctor.
If a user gets a high-risk rating, an in-house dermatologist provides a free review within two days to explain why there is a cause for concern.
These images are then added to the algorithm, which contains more than three million pictures, to improve its accuracy.
The app, which is available globally aside from the US and Canada, also sends reminders for users to visit a doctor, if necessary.
A study completed by SkinVision found the app has greater than 95 per cent sensitivity.
SkinVision uses an algorithm to accurately assess the skin cancer risk of users’ moles
Ms Hancock searched for a skin app when her daughter Tegan, 16, became concerned about one of her moles.
She downloaded SkinVision and used it on her leg. The app uses a phone’s camera to take photos of a mole or blemish and analyse whether it poses a cancer risk based on artificial intelligence.
The app immediately informed Ms Hancock she was ‘high risk’ and suggested she see a doctor.
Armed with the app, Ms Hancock went to her GP again and was urgently referred to a hospital dermatologist.
Once diagnosed, the mole was removed and Ms Hancock required no further treatment. However, she will have to keep an eye on her skin going forward.
‘Luckily it was quite easy for doctors to treat, but there is a chance I will have it again,’ she said.
‘The thought of it was worse than being told about it. After I Googled more about basal cell carcinoma I was quite terrified.
‘I started to hear stories and was worried they could cut my leg off.
‘But I knew I’d basically done it to myself so I wasn’t shocked, it was like a ticking time bomb.’
Ms Hancock is speaking out to raise awareness of the dangers of sunbeds.
She said: ‘The general reaction when I tell people I’ve had a cancerous mole is, “have you had it removed? It’s really not seen as a dangerous cancer.
‘But sun damage can and will kill you silently, and people need to understand this.
‘I’d urge people not to touch sunbeds at all and stick to fake tan.
‘By using them you’re putting yourself at risk of skin cancer or ageing your skin – you’re making a choice between getting older quicker or dying.’
WHAT IS BASAL CELL CARCINOMA?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Non-melanoma means it does not involve skin pigment cells.
BCC often appears as scabs that bleed
BCC makes up more than 80 per cent of all forms of skin cancer in the UK, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year.
It is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds.
BCC can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and ears.
The following people are most at risk:
- People with fair skin or hair
- Those who work outdoors
- People who use sunbeds
- Those with a personal history of the condition
BCC is usually painless. Early symptoms often only include a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal.
Some appear as flat, red, scaly marks or have a pearl-like rim. The latter can then erode into a ulcer.
Others are lumpy with shiny nodules crossed by blood vessels.
Most BCCs can be cured, however, treatment is complex if they are left for a long time.
Treatment usually involves removing the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.
Source: British Skin Foundation and NHS Choices