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If you walked past someone in the street and noticed they had a suspicious lesion on their face, would you tell them?


I guess most doctors would like to think they would, but what if you’re in a country where there is poor access to healthcare, where medical treatment is only available to those who can afford to pay for it, would that change your decision?

If you tell someone they potentially have an invasive form of skin cancer and they have no means to get it treated, surely you are doing the same as screening someone for a cancer that has no treatment.

I was faced with this very dilemma a few days ago, but I’m not in a third world country, I’m in one of the most developed countries in the world. I was on a subway train when I spotted a man with a suspicious skin lesion on his face, I took a few glances and was certain it was a basal cell carcinoma. He looked unkempt and was wearing torn, dirty clothes.

He certainly didn’t look like the kind of person to have an expensive healthcare insurance policy. I got up to approach but then hesitated, this wasn’t England, there was no NHS here, no equivalent to the free at the point of delivery, that is based on clinical need, not ability to pay system that I’m used to.

$145,000 for a 5 day hospital stay

A friend of mine, a resident of this country suddenly developed Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and had a 5 day hospital stay and a catheterised ablation and was charged $145,000.

I can’t even imagine that amount of money, nevertheless having to spend it for a condition that suddenly presented completely out of my control, my friend certainly doesn’t have that kind of money.

So what if you’re in this stranger’s position, what if you’re out of work and travelling on public transport, minding your own business and someone tells you that the lesion on your face, could be invading under your skin, doing irreversible damage and you have no money to pay for the treatment.

You’ve gone from oblivious to knowing that your own body is eating away at itself, and you’re powerless to stop it.


By Yvette Martyn


6% of 11-17 year olds are using tanning beds despite the risk that they may need to go under the surgeons knife as a result

Cancer Research UK stated that 6% of 11-17 year olds are using tanning beds in England. I started using tanning beds when I was 17 and continued using them until a few months ago when I chose to do an attachment in dermatology.

I remember watching patients having large chunks of cancer cut out of their faces, with flaps being used to cover the loss of tissue. The resultant permanent scarring and risk of death put me off tanning and I immediately stopped.

It didn’t take long until I realised what had made me start in the first place though. Society places huge amounts of pressure on young women to remain a colour to die for.

A month after giving up tanning, I received a text message from my local tanning salon, a salon which belongs to a national chain.

“Hi Yvette, we’ve missed you at the *** in June, and just to show you how much have a 1/2 price tanning sachet on us.”

I couldn’t believe it; tanning has been proven to be a risk factor in the development of cancer. It would be absurd to offer an ex-smoker a half price packet of cigarettes so how is it logical to dangle an offer to an ex-tanner?

I ignored the text but my anger grew when I went to my gym, the gym was also part of a national chain, a chain which emphasises the belief that health should come first.

Persuaded into tanning at the gym

The receptionist asked me if I wanted to go tanning as they had a promotion on. A man was dressed in Hawaiian get up, walking around the gym and offering people the same offer.

I don’t understand how a gym that exists to promote good health could try to persuade people into undertaking a dangerous activity. It just didn’t make logical sense.

The main issue is that; I have spent years studying medicine, I know what causes skin cancer, I know how to prevent it and I know the consequences when you get it. But, I still continued to go tanning for six years.

I can now turn a blind eye to these offers but can people that aren’t aware of the consequences?

People who haven’t seen the crying relatives and the shock on the face when the person looks in the mirror at their disfigured face. I certainly believe 11-17 year olds won’t fully understand the consequences of tanning.

There are associations which represent tanning salons and they state that the majority do turn away under 16’s. But, in my opinion, legalisation would be the only way to prevent young girls exposing themselves to such a dangerous activity.

Image: Simon Howden /

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