My wife loved having a tan – it made her feel healthy but it destroyed her bit by bit

A DYING mum of two wanted pictures of her “blackened and bloodied” diseased ear to be posted on the door of every sunbed shop to prevent anyone else from going through what she and her family suffered.

It was Anthea Smith’s dying wish for a total ban on sunbeds, after skin cancer claimed her life in 2021.

Anthea Smith became addicted to sunbeds, starting to use them aged 14

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Anthea Smith became addicted to sunbeds, starting to use them aged 14Credit: Focus Features
She found a red lump in her ear, which doctors first dismissed as a wart, when in fact it was skin cancer

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She found a red lump in her ear, which doctors first dismissed as a wart, when in fact it was skin cancerCredit: Focus Features
Anthea's husband Ste (middle, son Robbie, left) has spoken out about what she went through to help others

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Anthea’s husband Ste (middle, son Robbie, left) has spoken out about what she went through to help othersCredit: Focus Features
Anthea wanted photos of her diseased ear put on the doors of sunbed shops across Britain as a warning

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Anthea wanted photos of her diseased ear put on the doors of sunbed shops across Britain as a warning

Her sunbed addiction – which started at age 14 – led to her having her cancerous ear amputated, and the cancer spreading to her brain and lungs.

She died aged 45 on August 8, leaving her husband, Ste, and two sons devastated.

Ste, 55, from Wigan, says: “Anthea always liked to have a tan; she said it made her feel healthy.

“It was heart breaking to see the way it destroyed her, little by little.

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“It was her dying wish to save other lives and that is why I am speaking out.”

Counselor and social care worker, Anthea started using sunbeds when she was just 14.

She was allowed to have free time on the sunbed in return for helping out in a beauty salon.

From there, she started using sunbeds daily.

Anthea met Ste, aged 18, and they went on to have two children, Harry, now 23, and Robbie, 21.

She worked as a hairdresser and beautician and her sunbed addiction continued.

Aged 35, she noticed a red lump on her ear, which doctors initially dismissed as a wart.

It took a further five years before she was finally diagnosed with melanoma.

By now, the damage had spread, and her entire left ear had to be removed.

She underwent two long operations and in 2016 had 32 grueling radiotherapy sessions, before being fitted with a prosthetic ear.

She was left with a hole where her ear should be and lost her hearing and her balance was affected.

She was left with permanent tinnitus and numbness.

Ste says: “It was hard for Anthea, she felt like an alien at first. But she was very strong and determined to stay positive.”

HOPE DASHED

With a new outlook on life, the family had a holiday in Australia, and splashed out on a house extension and a new car.

But in January 2021, the cancer spread to Anthea’s lungs, brain, breasts, bowels, and spine.

Ste says: “The news was devastating. We were told she was terminal and that she had a few months left.

“Anthea, as always, was very practical. She chose the music for her funeral, and did video diaries for us all and she left messages warning of the dangers of sunbeds.

Need to know: Melanoma

THE NHS says to see a GP if you have any of these signs of melanoma:

  • you have a mole that’s changed size, shape or color
  • you have a mole that’s painful or itchy
  • you have a mole that’s inflamed, bleeding or crusty
  • you have a new or unusual mark on your skin that has not gone away after a few weeks
  • you have a dark area under a nail that has not been caused by an injury

Finding a melanoma as early as possible can mean it’s easier to treat.

Source: NHS

“One of the last things she asked for was a picture of her blackened and bloodied ear on the door of every sunbed shop, like the cancer warnings on cigarettes.

“It was her mission to make people aware that sunbeds are killers.”

During her illness, Anthea became firm friends with Gill Nuttall, CEO of Melanoma UK, who continues to support her family and raise awareness.

Gill says: “Anthea was so determined to spread awareness of the dangers of sunbeds.

“She was not afraid to challenge anyone regarding the safety of them.

“She would often use social media to warn other young people about what had happened to her.

“As painful as it was for her to see the photos of her surgery, she would never shy away from allowing them to be seen.

“We once went to a school to speak to a group of students who were getting ready for their prom night.

“It’s safe to say that they went away to book spray tans after the Anth meeting.

“She was not only an ambassador for Melanoma UK, but a very dear friend to me. I miss her.”

The mum of two also left behind devastated son Harry

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The mum of two also left behind devastated son HarryCredit: Focus Features
Anthea became great friends with Gill Nuttall, CEO of Melanoma UK and campaigned to raise awareness of skin cancer

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Anthea became great friends with Gill Nuttall, CEO of Melanoma UK and campaigned to raise awareness of skin cancer

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