Bolton Mum Has Ear Amputated After ‘Self-Inflicted’ Melanoma From Tanning Addiction

by : Julia Banim on : 17 Feb 2020 15:06
Ear amputatedKennedy News and Media/BBC

A mum-of-two has spoken out about her feelings of ‘guilt’ after her tanning addiction ultimately led to her having her ear amputated.

Anthea Smith, from Bolton, began using sunbeds at the age of just 14, and went on to become addicted. In 2015, the 44-year-old council worker was diagnosed with stage 3C melanoma after a black growth spread across her ear.


Anthea, who said she had ‘no level of knowledge about the dangers’ of sunbeds, ended up having her left ear completely amputated over the course of two operations.

You can find out more about Anthea’s story in the following clip:


She underwent two operations on August 5 and November 5, 2015, where the entirety of her outer and inner ear, lymph nodes, tragus, salivary glands and temporal bone were amputated, leaving only an exposed hole leading to her eardrums.


Following the first surgery – where her outer ear and tragus was removed – Anthea reportedly felt like an ‘alien’. During the second operation, which took a gruelling 13 hours, doctors amputated Anthea’s inner ear and middle ear, using skin taken from Anthea’s right leg and hip to cover the wound.

Speaking with the BBC, Anthea spoke of the shame she felt about the amputation being ‘self-inflicted’:

The guilt I feel for my husband and my children really, that this… was self-inflicted.

[…] I was addicted to having a tan and being tanned. Predominantly it was sunbeds because it was quicker and the results were faster.

Following her ordeal, Anthea has been left deaf in one ear and suffers from constant balance issues. She also has had to contend with the possibility the cancer could one day return.


Going forward, Anthea now hopes others will learn from her story, telling the BBC:

Nobody should have to live with what I’m living with, all for a tan.

According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, the rate of melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK have more than doubled since the early 1990s. There are now approximately 16,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer in the UK each year.


Sunbed users are known to have an increased risk of getting skin cancer, with melanoma killing six people in the UK every single day.

Cancer charity Melanoma UK is now calling for sunbeds in England to be banned altogether, following the successful implementation bans in Australia and Brazil.

If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Health, Cancer


BBC and 1 other
  1. BBC

    'I lost my left ear to my tanning addiction'

  2. Melanoma UK