DUBLIN — Margaret Murphy loves being outside in the sun. Hailing from Ireland, she spent her childhood playing outdoors, not worrying about the sun since it was often cloudy and cold.
She then spent over a decade on the island of Crete, basking in the sun to get a good tan.
"I would use a (sunscreen) until I was brown, but after that I would abandon it," Murphy, 45, told The Independent. "During the summers in the bad Irish weather, I would use sunbeds to try and keep my tan up — but now I'm paying the price."
Murphy was diagnosed in December with actinic keratosis — a dry, scaly lesion that can turn into skin cancer. She is documenting her painful treatment on Facebook to warn others about the dangers of too much sun.
"I heard all the warnings years ago and closed my eyes and ears to it all," she wrote on her Facebook page Mag's Murphys Journey. "Maybe someone will open their eyes to this if it's closer to home."
She is posting pictures of her 30-day treatment with Efudix cream. It stops the growth of the lesions, according to Dr. Julie Karen, a board certified dermatologist in New York.
"If you apply it to normal skin without sun damage, there should be minimal to no reaction," Karen told Today.com. "When applied to extensively damaged skin, the reaction is avid or exuberant, such as this woman is demonstrating."
Over the last month, Murphy's face progressed from slightly pink to swollen, raw and itchy with massive scabbing.
"I can't open my mouth any more than an inch," she wrote during her treatment. "My eyes don't even fully open today. I'd rather give birth five times than do this again."
She is one week out from finishing the treatment and her face is slowly fading to pink.
"I'd never wish this treatment on anyone," she writes on her Facebook page. "Prevention is better than cure. DON'T FORGET YOUR SPF."
More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer each year are linked to tanning beds, according to skincancer.org. A person's risk for melanoma doubles after getting five or more sunburns.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following to prevent skin cancer:
, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
(2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating
head to toe every month
for a professional skin exam