Anthea Smith developed aggressive melanoma in her ear after years of using a sunbed
Anthea Smith
Credit: Kennedy News and Media

Anthea Smith never thought about the dangers of tanning when she was a teenager. Now, after developing an aggressive form of melanoma in her left ear that led to its amputation, the U.K. mother of two is speaking out to warn others to stop using tanning beds.

“I lost my left ear to my tanning addiction,” Smith, 44, told the BBC. “[My] whole left ear has been amputated, and then [in a] second operation I had my whole inner ear, middle ear, all my salivary glands on my left side, all my lymph nodes. Full temple bone taken from my skull.”

It was a habit that started when she was young. “I was addicted to having a tan, to being tanned,” she said. “Predominantly it was sunbeds because it was quicker, and the results were faster.”

Anthea Smith
Anthea Smith’s ear prior to amputation
| Credit: Kennedy News and Media

In 2014, Smith began to notice a flesh-colored growth in her ear, according to Fox News. At first, doctors dismissed it as a wart, but soon the growth developed into a black and brown mass that began spreading and bleeding whenever she touched it.

She was diagnosed her with stage 3 melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, in 2015, and underwent two operations, followed by many radiation treatments.

“The guilt that I feel to my husband and children, really, that this is all, this was self-inflicted,” she told the BBC. “But it was self-inflicted with no level of knowledge of the dangers.”

Skin cancer is the “most common of all cancers,” according to the American Cancer Society, and it can metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.

Anthea Smith
Credit: Kennedy News and Media

There are about 16,000 new melanoma skin cancer cases every year in the U.K., the BBC reports. Meanwhile, in the United States, the incidence of melanoma has doubled during the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The rate of people getting melanoma continues to increase every year compared to the rates of most other cancers, which are declining,” Lisa Richardson, Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a statement. “If we take action now, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of new cases of skin cancers, including melanoma, and save billions of dollars in medical costs.”