Deborah Meaden has credited her make-up artist for spotting a sign of skin cancer, which lead to her diagnosis.
The Dragon’s Den star, 63, revealed that prior to her diagnosis she hadn't paid too much attention to sun protection, admitting that while she put on suncream if she was on holiday or going to the beach she didn't wear it every day.
"I didn't treat [being outside] with the same respect as if I was sunbathing," she told host Vogue Williams on the Boots’ Taboo Talk podcast.
“I was aware of [how much the sun could damage my skin], I’m quite fair-skinned but oddly I’ve never really burnt and I think that was a problem for me.
“I kind of thought that I was immune to it… I thought, I might look fair, but obviously my skin can handle it. So it was a bit of a shock when I realised there was some damage done.”
Meaden went on to reveal that it was her make-up artist on the BBC show who first noticed a potential sign of skin cancer.
“I was filming Dragon’s Den, and I don’t get spots, but my make-up artist had noticed what looked like a tiny, little whitehead that had been on my face for probably about six weeks,” she continued.
“And she kept saying, ‘That’s not right, Deborah’, and I thought, ‘OK that’s really weird, I don’t usually get spots’. I was going off to Africa and I thought, before I go, I just need to get that checked out.
“So I sent a picture to my doctor, who said it could be something, it might not, but it could be something. Then he got me an appointment with a local hospital and I went along and they told me, ‘You’ve got a squamous’.”
According to the NHS squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, which starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for about 20 in every 100 skin cancers.
It often appears as a firm pink lump with a rough or crusted surface, which can feel tender when touched, bleeds easily and may develop into an ulcer.
It can be easily treatable when caught early.
Meaden said she had the cancer removed after she returned from her trip to Africa and now hopes to raise awareness about the dangers of sun damage as well as making people aware of some of the signs.
“When I say I was lucky, we caught it incredibly early. I’m evangelical now about saying to people, if you’ve got a little odd pimple that won’t go, don’t just think it’s a pimple,” she added.
“I’ve always looked for moles, I know all the rules about moles, I’ve never looked for something that actually looked like a whitehead."
The entrepreneur admits she may never have spotted the sign if it wasn't for her make-up artist.
While she is currently "completely clear" of skin cancer, aside from a few scaly patches, which are being treated with a cream, she has been told that she may at risk of another one appearing.
Meaden says she now does all she can to protect her skin against the sun.
“My prognosis is factor 50, I wear a hat when I’m outside all of the time, and watch my skin. If I get something that doesn't feel right, I won't just live it it and expect it to go away, I'll get it checked. I do have regular skin checks over my whole skin," she continued.
What is non-melanoma skin cancer?
Non melanoma skin cancer includes:
basal cell skin cancer - this is also called basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
squamous cell skin cancer - this is also called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
some other rare types
Cancer Research UK says most non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that's exposed to the sun.
There is a high cure rate for these cancers, with most people diagnosed only needing to have minor surgery, without further treatment.
Watch: Spotlight on: Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Around 156,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, but Cancer Research UK believes the figure could be higher as they are easy to treat and cure. This makes it the most common type of cancer by far.
Earlier this year it was revealed that skin cancer cases have hit a record level in England, with around one in five people affected during their lifetime.
There were 224,000 skin cancers recorded in England in 2019 and more than 1.4 million between 2013 and 2019, according to figures analysed by NHS Digital and the British Association of Dermatologists.
Experts believe an ageing population and improvements to how cancers are reported are behind the rise.
Increasing exposure to the sun and people going on foreign holidays may also be to blame.
Preventing non-melanoma skin cancer
While non-melanoma skin cancer is not always preventable, there are some measures you can take to reduce your chance of developing it including avoiding overexposure to UV light.
The NHS advises protecting yourself from sunburn by using high-factor sunscreen, dressing sensibly in the sun, and limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun during the hottest part of the day.
They also recommend avoiding sunbeds and sunlamps.
Regularly checking your skin for signs of skin cancer can help lead to an early diagnosis and increase your chance of successful treatment.