Tanning booth habit leaves woman with a hole in her face, skin cancer

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Here’s a warning for anyone looking to get a little sun while the warm weather and sunshine take a winter break.

A Cary woman says her decision to "fake bake" means she'll spend the rest of her life wondering if her cancer will come back, and that's after it left a gaping hole on the side of her face.

You may find this woman's cancer photos tough to look at, but we hope you find it to be a wakeup call as well.

“It was euphoric I guess. I guess you could say I was on a high after I had my tan,” said Carrie Doles.

Doles says her college years were full of friends, fun and a lot of time at the tanning salon.

“We all did it. We would all go together on a nightly basis whenever we got done with class,” Doles said. “It became an addiction. If I missed a day, I would become depressed.”

But all that time spent in the tanning bed caught up with her after college.

“I noticed a spot on the back of my leg, went to the dermatologist, had a biopsy done,” Doles said.

What she had was Basal Cell Carcinoma, which is a form of skin cancer. Doles' doctor removed it and told her to stay out of the sun, and tanning beds.

“I didn't heed his warning, I didn't think it was that big of a deal, I was always told that the basal cell cancer was the good kind of cancer, if you're going to have a skin cancer, so I continued to tan after that,” Doles said.

Then, she noticed a spot on her face.

“Kind of just let it go, didn't think anything of it, and for a while, it was there,” Doles said.

When she finally went to get it checked out before her wedding, the doctor told her it was another round of cancer.

“After our wedding, I went in for a biopsy, didn't think it was going to be a big deal,” Doles said.

That doctor sent her to a specialist who immediately put her under the knife.

“I heard them cutting into my skin,” Doles said. “When they finally said that the cancer cells were removed, I was left with a huge hole on the side of my face.”

Turns out, the small lesion on her face was spreading like wildfire underneath her skin.

“It was nauseating,” Doles said. “It was pure shock.”

It's not the last time it would happen. Over the next few years, doles would get cancer a third time and she's not out of the woods yet.

“I'm more than likely going to have another couple bouts of skin cancer. Now that I've had it, my risks are very high,” Doles said.

“Just one tanning bed exposure increases your risk of developing skin cancer,” said Dr. Carolyn Jacob.

Doctor Jacob says there's a science to the love of Vitamin D, which comes from UVB rays.

“They've actually done studies on this to find that some people can actually get addicted to tanning,” Dr. Jacob said.

Doctor Jacob says cloudy winter days in Chicago mean a lack of those rays. But that doesn't mean we should turn to tanning.

“In tanning beds, it's almost all UVA rays which penetrate more deeply and also cause skin cancer,” Dr. Jacob said.

She says there's also a deadlier type of skin cancer called Melanoma, and there's no cure for that.

“That's the type of skin cancer that most often kills people,” Dr. Jacob said.

As for Doles, she says she's lucky to have avoided melanoma for now, and she'll stick to wearing an SPF every day and staying out of the sun.

“It's not worth it. It's not worth dying over having a tan,” Doles said.

“If you have a spot on your skin that won't go away, that bleeds on its own, that won't heal up, or looks like a shiny bump and is new but does not go away, you want to go see your board-certified dermatologist to make sure you don't have skin cancer,” Dr. Jacob said. “So if you've ever used an indoor tanning bed, you should see a board-certified dermatologist for a mole exam so that we can make sure your skin looks normal and that you haven't developed any one of these skin cancers.”

The dermatologist says if you have a spot on your skin that won't go away, that bleeds on its own or simply won't heal, go get it checked out.