Beware of the sun!

Cover up!

Image: Getty, posed by models

Fiona Bigmore used to love going to the beach and would lie for hours in the sun perfecting her golden tan.

“I used to make a mixture of olive oil and vinegar — the theory was that because vinegar is acidic, it makes you burn faster!” she says. “Anyway, I’d coat myself in it before getting out into the sun.”

Fiona — a 44-year-old registered nurse and mother-of-three who now lives in Katoomba, NSW, with her husband Ian — spent her early childhood in Sydney’s beachside Maroubra before moving to the western suburbs.

Fiona liked having a tan because she thought it looked healthy.

But ironically, her attempt at looking healthy nearly killed her. At the age of 41 — only weeks after giving birth to her youngest daughter, Avalon — Fiona was diagnosed with a very rare melanoma.

“I was devastated,” she says. “I think I cried for two days, then composed myself and decided to get on with it and do the best I can.”

In July, 2001, Fiona underwent surgery at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to remove the melanoma and find out if it had spread into her lymph nodes.

“Fortunately it hadn’t spread and the surgery was successful,” she explains. “But with melanoma you never know if or when it will reappear. So I’m still going for six-monthly appointments with my specialist and he goes over my whole body with a magnifying glass.”

Fiona learned the hard way about the dangers of tanning. And now she insists her children don’t follow in her footsteps. “I don’t let them go anywhere without a hat!” she says. “And if they want to swim, we go to an indoor pool or to the beach early in the morning or late in the day.”

Fiona has a very strong message for the rest of us. “Anybody can get melanoma,” she says. “So cover up and forget about trying to get a tan. It could kill you.”

“The sun protection message is starting to cut through, with teens more aware of the risks of tanning and sunburn,” Professor Ian Olver the CEO of the Cancer Council Australia said.

“While these are encouraging results, we’ve still got a big job to convince remaining teens to ditch the tan.”

For more information:

The Cancer Council’s Cancer Helpline: 13 11 20

The Cancer Council Australia website:

SunSmart Victoria website:

Australasian College of Dermatologists website:

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