Grandfather, 66, whose head was ravaged by 21 skin cancer tumours over 25 years, is finally given the all-clear after losing an EAR and having his scalp skin rotated 180°
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- Colin Davies, from Hartlepool, was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 1993
- Since then he has had 21 tumours on his head and multiple operations
- In his latest op in 2016 he had an ear removed and a skin graft on his scalp
A grandfather whose head was ravaged by aggressive skin cancer has warned people to stay safe in the sun this summer.
Colin Davies, 66, lost one of his ears and needed his scalp skin rotated 180° after having skin cancer on his head for more than two decades.
Mr Davies was diagnosed with skin cancer after discovering a ‘tough, itchy’ spot on his forehead, and has had 21 tumours over the past 25 years.
But he has now been given the all-clear after a huge operation in 2016 in which he lost his right ear.
During 13 hours of disfiguring surgery Mr Davies had three tumours removed from his head, as well as his ear, part of his jaw and some neck and shoulder muscle.
He puts the horrifying condition down to fishing trips he took as a child, despite not being first diagnosed until decades later when he was 41, in 1993.
Now, after 25 years of regular surgery Mr Davies, from Hartlepool, County Durham, says he is ‘lucky to be alive’ and warns people to wear a hat and sun cream on hot days.
Colin Davies had to have a brutal 13-hour operation in 2016 to remove skin cancer tumours from his head, as well as an ear and flesh on his scalp, neck and shoulder
Mr Davies, who has had an average of nearly one new tumour a year for the past 25 years, is speaking out about his ordeal to encourage people to stay protected and out of the sun this summer.
He said he had ignored a spot on his head for a while but realised it was serious when it started to feel tough and sore.
Despite starting at the size of a grape, Mr Davies’s skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma – continued to grow and eventually took over his head.
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It spread to his neck, jaw, ear and right shoulder, and he now has a prosthetic ear because his had to be cut off.
Mr Davies said: ‘If the spot hadn’t have been in the middle of my forehead, it could’ve gone unnoticed and it probably would’ve killed me.
‘I’ve had to battle with the cancer for over 25 years as almost every year another cancerous tumour develops, which has resulted in intensive surgery.
‘I’ve had to have my body completely changed – I’ve lost my ear, part of my jaw and my scalp has been completely stripped and given new skin.’
Mr Davies, now 66, says he is ‘lucky to be alive’ but he can never enjoy the sun again, and ‘wouldn’t want to’
Mr Davies now has a prosthetic ear because his real ear became cancerous and had to be amputated
During a 13-hour operation in 2016 Mr Davies had three large tumours removed, as well as his right ear, ear canal, part of his lower jaw, and neck and shoulder muscle removed.
He also needed part of his scalp removed and replaced with an acrylic plate and a skin graft from his leg, and the entire scalp was rotated by 180 degrees.
Mr Davies then underwent six weeks of intensive radiotherapy to eradicate the cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma accounts for 80 per cent of all skin cancers
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, making up 80 per cent of cases, and more than 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK.
It is usually caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, and early symptoms may be a scab that bleeds and does not heal.
The cancer can almost always be cured with surgery and rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but may become more complicated if it is left untreated for a long time or is in a difficult location, such as near the eye, nose or ear.
Mr Davis is now warning others not to put themselves at risk of the same grim fate.
‘People must realise they’re not invincible’
‘I only spent my younger years in the sun,’ Mr Davies said. ‘My doctor told me that he believes it was my years as a child going fishing in the sun that caused the cancer.
‘But the skin cancer still ravaged me – which is why I am issuing this warning so people realise they’re not invincible.
Mr Davies before he started to get tumours on his head 25 years ago – he has had 21 skin cancer growths since 1993
Mr Davies, pictured with his daughter Lauren Davies, now says he is looking forward to being with his family after spending the past 25 years in and out of hospital
‘I had continual checks on the spot for two years before I was diagnosed, but when it was tough, sore and itchy I knew that it was cancer.
‘So that’s when I went to the doctor and had the spot removed, but the cancer was growing fast and soon took over my entire head.
‘I won’t risk going out in the sun now’
‘As the cancer continued to move I had to have more of my body removed – including an amputation on my ear, which has now been replaced by a prosthetic, and part of my skull being replaced by an acrylic plate.
‘After spending 25 years of my life in and out of hospital, getting the all clear and then the cancer coming back, I won’t even risk going out in the sun now.’
The doting grandfather is now cancer-free and is looking forward to the future with his family.
But Mr Davies will be spending his summer indoors, as going outside in the sun could cause his cancer to return or his skin graft to burn through to the bone.
Mr Davies cannot go out in the sun any more because it could cause his cancer to return or his skin to burn badly
He is sharing his story to raise awareness for the dangers of skin cancer and to plead people to stay out of the sun this summer.
‘If you sun bathe you’re living on a knife edge’
He said: ‘If you go out and sun bathe you’re living on a knife edge – because you could end up like me.
‘Skin cancer isn’t just something that’s easy to get rid of, it can change your identity and becomes a life sentence.
‘I can never enjoy the sun again and this has made me realise why I would never want to, but if you are just make sure you’re covered in sun cream and wear a hat.
‘I’m lucky to still be alive now and to always have had the love and support of my family and friends, but some might not be as lucky.’
WHAT IS BASAL CELL CARCINOMA?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Non-melanoma means it does not involve skin pigment cells.
BCC often appears as scabs that bleed
BCC makes up more than 80 per cent of all forms of skin cancer in the UK, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year.
It is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds.
BCC can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and ears.
The following people are most at risk:
- People with fair skin or hair
- Those who work outdoors
- People who use sunbeds
- Those with a personal history of the condition
BCC is usually painless. Early symptoms often only include a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal.
Some appear as flat, red, scaly marks or have a pearl-like rim. The latter can then erode into a ulcer.
Others are lumpy with shiny nodules crossed by blood vessels.
Most BCCs can be cured, however, treatment is complex if they are left for a long time.
Treatment usually involves removing the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.
Source: British Skin Foundation and NHS Choices
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