Melanoma Scotland: Aberdeen man who ignored tell-tale mole warns Scots about skin cancer ahead of post-Covid summer

Scots have been warned to beware of the risks of skin cancer this summer, as many are expected to go abroad for the first time during the Covid pandemic.

An Aberdeen man who ignored a tell-tale mole and was later diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has urged others not to make the same mistake.

In 2015 Willie Munro, 61, noticed a mole on his side had changed colour and looked different to the others on his body.

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But he put off going to the doctor for six months, busy in his senior manager role with a local authority, and nervous about a procedure to cut it out.

Mr Munro knew he should be careful in the sun, but he didn't realise how dangerous melanoma could be.

Those delays changed Mr Munro’s life forever.

When he finally went to the doctor the mole was cut out in a procedure which was “nothing to worry about”.

But tests revealed the cancer had spread, and Mr Munro had to have major surgery. This was successful, and for some years the cancer appeared to have gone.

But in 2019 it returned. This led to a year of immunotherapy treatment, which has had a major impact on Mr Munro’s life. He has had two emergency hospital trips, and as a side effect his body no longer produces cortisol, meaning he has to take daily replacements and carry an emergency injection kit with him at all times.

Mr Munro said he wished he had gone to the doctor sooner.

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Mr Munro, who is now retired, is urging other Scots to be aware of the symptoms of melanoma and to go to the doctor sooner.

“I didn't realise just how serious melanoma can be,” he said.

"It's a very nasty form of cancer. Thankfully I've been lucky, but along the way I've met people who have not been so lucky. Some of them have been in the prime of their lives.”

Sun worshippers are seen at Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty

He “really wishes” he had gone to the doctor sooner.

"I had a very demanding job and my mind was fully occupied the whole time. It was very easy just to put it to the back of my mind,” he said.

“But had I gone when I first noticed it, it would have been cut out. I would have had a couple of stitches, and that would have been it.

“As it is I have now had six surgical procedures, well in excess of 80 medical appointments, umpteen scans, a year of immunotherapy treatment… and it could all have been dealt with by 15 minutes and a couple of stitches.”

Research by the charity Melanoma Focus found a third of Scots were planning to go on a hot summer holiday this year, but only 57 per cent planned to wear sun cream. Having more than five sunburns in life doubles a persons risk of getting melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, the charity said.

Dr Charlotte Proby, dermatology professor at Ninewells hospital in Dundee, said she sees patients “again and again” who are shocked to be diagnosed with melanoma as they didn’t realise the risks of the sun, even in Scotland.

“Exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds can cause permanent damage to DNA in skin cells making it more likely for skin cancers to develop,” she said.

"Avoiding these rays is the best way to protect yourself, particularly if you have pale skin or a family history of melanoma skin cancer.”

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