Guy who 'thought he was invincible' given devastating cancer diagnosis at 21
| Last updated
A self-confessed sun bed addict who 'thought he was invincible' is now warning others after he received a devastating cancer diagnosis when he was just 21.
A lot of us love to top up the tan when the sun is out, but in fact, it is very dangerous to be exposed to high levels of UV.
Jak Howell, now 23, found out the hard way, with his tanning habit starting when he was 16.
Every week, the man from Swansea would lie under UV lights for well over an hour, and he played down concerns raised by his mum about his sunbed addiction.
But in April 2021, Jak noticed an aggravated mole that later started to bleed, which doctors told him was cancerous.
Following his melanoma diagnosis - a type of skin cancer often caused by too much sun exposure - Jak faced radiotherapy and underwent surgery to remove the lump, as well as lymph nodes from his groin.
Unfortunately, the operation did fail, which left Jak enduring a year of immunotherapy treatment.
"I never knew how dangerous sunbeds were, I just thought I was invincible as a teenager," Jak said.
“I wanted to share my story in the hopes it would help other people, and I’ve had comments from others who can relate to what I’ve been through.
“I haven’t been on a sunbed since my diagnosis, I only use fake tan now.”
By the time Jak was 18, he was using sunbeds five times a week, each for 18 minutes at a time.
When the mole first became irritable nearly two years ago, Jak assumed it was a bug bite so just ignored it.
However, when it started bleeding in the shower one day, he knew something was seriously wrong.
"I went running to my mum and I could tell by the look on her face that she was really worried," Jak said.
A photo of the mole was sent to the doctors, who told Jak to immediately go to the hospital for tests.
Ten days later, he found out the results: "I was sat by myself when the doctor rang to tell me I had cancer," Jak said.
"Even though I’d been worried, I still wasn’t prepared for how serious it was.
"I was just speechless, I didn’t know what to say. Everything went silent, my palms were soaking with sweat. I thought I was going to die."
After the unsuccessful operation, Jak started immunotherapy treatment in December 2021, which he had every six weeks up until the following Christmas.
And in December 2022, Jak received the fantastic news that he was all-clear and in remission.
Now, he is raising awareness about sunbeds and his own experiences with them on social media.
"I hope my story can be a warning to other people, I don’t think enough people realise how dangerous sunbeds are," Jak said.