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Former lifeguard's mole turned out to be melanoma

María Capellán.
María Capellán. / SUR
  • She was working at a water park when the Sun Protection Campaign arrived. She was horrified when a mole on her back turned out to be a melanoma

“I have to thank my job for giving me back my health,” says 25-year-old María Capellán. She is very aware of the importance of sun protection, but mainly because of a stroke of luck. In 2011 she was working as a lifeguard at the water park of a hotel on the Costa del Sol. The hospital's sun protection campaign came to give advice to the staff. “They checked us all and looked at marks and moles. They just told me to see my GP so he could look at a mole on my back,” she says. So she did. He referred her to the hospital's Dermatology Department, and a few months later she underwent surgery. A biopsy confirmed that her mole was a melanoma. “I couldn't believe it could be so serious. I had never even seen the mole on my back,” she says. She remembers the stress of that time. “They did all sorts of tests: blood tests, CAT scans, ultrasound. They opened me up to look at a lymph gland, but luckily it was OK,” she says. Since then, she has had to go for regular checkups. She also gave up her job. “After what happened to me, everyone who worked there was told they had to wear a tee-shirt. Until then, none of us had ever thought about how necessary that was,” she explains.

The experience has left her with a large scar and a huge sense of responsibility. “I just didn't imagine that anything like that would happen. I didn't lie in the sun all afternoon and evening. I don't think I ever had sunburn. People don't pay enough attention to these things because they think it can't happen to them. I dread to think what would have happened if they hadn't spotted my mole,” she says. She now urges her friends to be careful when they sunbathe, but they don't always pay any attention. “I prefer to go to the beach early in the morning or in the evening, and always stay under a sunshade. People tend not to take it seriously until something happens to them,” she says.