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Man given year to live after six years of using tanning beds

Emily Brown

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| Last updated 

Man given year to live after six years of using tanning beds

Featured Image Credit: Triangle News

A man in his 20s was given just one year to live after going on sunbeds multiple times a week from the age of 16.

Jak Howell, from Swansea, would rack up as many as 100 minutes a week on sunbeds after first getting into the habit by watching his older friends use them.

The legal age for using sunbeds is 18, but Jack began using them when he was just 16 as he sought to 'follow the crowd', saying: “I was underage to begin with which was very immature and silly of me but I was using them here and there. About 18, I fell into the loophole of properly going on sunbeds."

Jak started using sunbeds after seeing his older friends do the same. Credit: Triangle News
Jak started using sunbeds after seeing his older friends do the same. Credit: Triangle News

Jak said it was something he found 'hard to stop', and at his worst the 23-year-old would undergo 18 or 20 minute sessions up to five times a week, defying government guidance which states users should leave 48 hours between tanning sessions.

Early last year, after six years of using sunbeds, Jak was ordered by his GP to go straight to hospital after sending off an image of a concerning spot on his back, which had begun to itch. He initially thought it was an insect bite, but doctors removed a mole and sent it to be assessed.

A few weeks later, in May 2021, he found out he had Stage 3 melanoma and was given just 12 months to live.

Using a sunbed before the age of 35 is believed to increase risk of melanoma by 87 percent, and two operations to remove the cancer from Jak's back and groin proved unsuccessful.

Jak found out he had cancer after finding a spot on his back. Credit: Triangle News
Jak found out he had cancer after finding a spot on his back. Credit: Triangle News

He found a lifeline in chemotherapy, which has allowed him to outlive his initial 12-month estimation and has given him hope that he will be able to bid goodbye to the cancer by the end of the year.

Knowing what he knows now, Jak uses his social media channels to spread awareness about the dangers of using sunbeds.

He commented: “I’d tell little Jak to be confident in himself and that he doesn’t need to do all these silly things to make himself feel like he fits in. I’d tell him to know his worth. I’d tell him to be prepared for things that are coming.”

Experts believe spending just 20 minutes on a sunbed is the equivalent of spending four hours in the sun, with the machines designed to target the skin with UV rays stronger than Mediterranean UV at midday.

Topics: Health, Cancer, UK News

Emily Brown
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