A woman from Ireland who is chronicling her fight with pre-cancerous lesions after years of sunbathing has seen her posts go viral.
Margaret Murphy spent more than a decade living on the island of Crete and tanning herself to "look good," she says on her Facebook page.
She also spent summers “doing sunbeds” to get a tan in the less-sunny Irish climate. Sunscreen was not a priority for her.
Them, some years ago, Murphy noticed a little crusty, scaly patch on her forehead; then more patches appeared.
The 45-year-old mum was suffering from actinic keratoses — precancerous lesions that form when the skin is damaged by ultraviolet rays from the sun or indoor tanning.
Now, Murphy has decided to chronicle the effects of her treatment on Facebook as a warning to others of the dangers of tanning.
Murphy began treatment with Efudix cream, or topical fluorouracil.
The cream stops the rapid growth of the lesions.
“If you apply it to normal skin without sun damage, there should be minimal to no reaction,” New York dermatologist Julie Karen told NBC News.
But “when applied to extensively damaged skin, the reaction is avid or exuberant, such as this woman is demonstrating".
Many people limit treatment to smaller areas because it can be difficult to endure such extensive inflammation, but Murphy “is brave and will have an excellent response as a result,” NBC reported Karen as saying.
Murphy described her treatment this way: “I'd rather give birth five times than do this again.”
The cream left her face fiery red, raw, swollen, peeling and maddeningly itchy.
Her 13-year-old daughter suggested she start the Facebook page to show the consequences of too much sun.
Actinic keratoses are a very common pre-cancerous condition of the skin, Karen told NBC. The lesions are most commonly the result of chronic cumulative exposure to UV radiation.
They look like pink or red rough areas with a classically "gritty" feeling to them. When neglected, the lesions can become non-melanoma skin cancer — squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma, she added.
A single lesion can be scraped off or frozen using liquid nitrogen, but people with many lesions need broader treatment.