A FORMER sunbed addict has issued a terrifying warning after it was revealed that more men than ever are dying of skin cancer.
Freddie Bishop, 49, from Neston, Cheshire, had ignored the signs for two years before being diagnosed after his partner nagged him into seeing his GP.
He needed life saving surgery to remove a tumour the size of a golf ball from his face after contracting the deadly disease.
He will remain scarred for life despite skin grafts from his thigh to rebuild the hole left in his temple.
Self confessed sun bed addict Freddie is now calling for greater restrictions as new figures from cancer Research UK reveal more men than women are dying from the disease.
While more women continue to be diagnosed, the charity believe more men are dying because, like Freddie, they are less likely to report symptoms to their GP.
Nursing assistant Freddie said: ‘I knew about the risks but I’d been using them for so long with no problems I thought I was safe.
‘To be honest I was addicted to having a year round tan and just assumed it wouldn’t happen to me. I hate going to the doctor and didn’t want to make a fuss so when I first noticed a scab I just ignored it until it disappeared.
It was only when my partner got really cross and demanded I see the GP that I finally went.
‘I wish I had gone earlier.
Recent research has shown that the risks of using sunbeds are far higher than previously thought.
Scientists at the University of Dundee recently revealed that sunbeds are twice as likely to cause skin cancer than a holiday in the Mediterranean sun.
The World Health organisation states sunbeds are as lethal as cigarettes and list them as one of the most dangerous cancer causing habits.
The Government banned them for use by under eighteens last year.
But thousands of Brits like Freddie continue to risk their lives for a tan.
Freddie said: ‘ I started using sun beds to get a bit of a tan before a holiday so I looked good on the beach and stop me burning.
‘Then when I got back from my holidays I kept using them so my tan didn’t fade. I looked healthier and felt good. Soon it become a habit.’
He went from using sunbeds once a week to four times a week for the then maximum permitted 12 minutes.
‘I only had one holiday a year but liked the way I looked and felt with a tan so kept using the sunbeds all year round.
‘Back then not much was said about using them but even when they started warning people I took no notice because I didn’t think it would happen to me
‘To be honest I didn’t want to look pasty white all year. If I looked healthy and tanned on the outside I felt good on the inside.’
Freddie admits he became addicted to tanning sessions and was regularly complimented on his deep glow.
‘I loved it. When I went on holiday I never burned and people were always telling me I looked young and fit for my age. Why would I stop ?
‘I’m a modern man so using the sunbed never bothered me. As the years passed I started to notice more men at the salon than women. I think men started to take more care of how they looked.’
In fact it was his healthy looking tan that first attracted girlfriend Denise Greatbanks.
The couple met on a dating website in 2011.
Denise said: ‘ I liked Freddie’s profile picture because he looked so fit and well and I suppose part of that was his tan.’
But the beautician was shocked to find out his glow was down to sunbeds.
‘He was quite open about using the sunbed but it was the frequency that really worried me.
‘He was at the tanning shop at least four or five times a week. My job means I know how bad it is for your skin and I tried to warn him but Freddie just laughed.
‘Like many men he thought he was immune to the risks and had been using for so long he hated the way he looked when he wasn’t tanned.
‘I told him to use a fake tan but he wasn’t interested and just carried on.’
But months before the couple met Freddie had noticed a blemish on his right temple.
‘It kept appearing and fading away so I never gave it much thought,’ he explains.
But these were the vital first warning signs of Basal Cell Carinoma. ( BCC)
Over the following months the blemish began to scab and Denise nagged him to see a doctor but Freddie refused.
‘I felt great and I didn’t want to make a fuss and waste time over nothing. Beside the scab would fall off and everyone would forget about it.’
Meanwhile Freddie kept using the sunbed unaware he was putting his life at risk.
Then last year Denise started finding blood on the pillow and once again nagged Freddie to see a doctor about the scab.
Once again he tried to avoid his GP by turning to the Internet where he self diagnosed a harmless skin condition.
He said: ‘The pictures looked the same so I told Denise I knew what it was and not to worry. I was sure if I had skin cancer I wouldn’t have felt so well.’
In September 2012 the couple holidayed in Turkey where Freddie’s tan gave him confidence on the beach.
But the scab was growing and clearly visbible in their holiday snaps on their return.
This time Denise insisted Freddie see a doctor.
The following month in October 2012 he was referred to a dermatologist who took one look and asked Freddie if he used sunbeds.
‘I knew straight away it was bad news. I couldn’t believe what a fool I had been.’
The consultant suspected skin cancer and arranged a biopsy.
In November he was diagnosed with BCC.
It is one of the most frequently occurring types of skin cancer and usually associated with exposure to UV light.
Freddie said: ‘It doesn’t normally spread but I had left it for so long without seeing a doctor that it didn’t look good at all.’
Freddie was admitted for surgery in January this year.
‘When I came round I was told the cancer had spread even more than they had expected. It was right down to the bone. I nearly lost an eye and ear.
‘I was shocked when I saw the size of the hole left behind. It looked like a crater left by a golf ball.
‘They’ve done a great job with the skin graft but I’ll still be scarred for life. I’m just lucky to be alive.
‘It goes without saying that I wish I had never started using sun beds and I will never use them again.
‘My fear is that despite the warnings people still want to look like the cast of TOWIE and will keep using sunbeds to get a tan.
‘Men can’t use fake tan because it’s messy and gets stuck in your stubble. The sunbeds are an easy option.
‘Tougher regulations would help but it might be easier just to ban them all together.
‘In my experience it seems to be the men still using them and men hate going to the doctor so are perhaps more at risk.
‘I hope my story stops one person from using the sunbed.’