A British woman who lost half of her face to skin cancer is sharing graphic photos of her ordeal online to warn others of the dangers of tanning, the Daily Mail reports.

Like many of us, 64-year-old Elaine Sheaf spent much of her youth in pursuit of bronzed skin, relying heavily on tanning beds to keep her glow going year-round. She'd skimp on the SPF when outside — purposely burning her skin to hasten her tan — and spend hours lounging in tanning beds, trying to get as bronze as possible. Though Sheaf ended her affair with tanning by the time she was 30 (and got an all-clear from her dermatologist in 1995), the English native was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2013, after a friend noticed a mole on her cheek had grown significantly. Sheaf admits she "never thought anything" about the mole until her friend voiced concern.

a man and a woman smiling for the camera © Caters

"I didn't really notice it had changed because I saw it every day, but it was only when someone else noticed it that it hit me that it'd changed quite a bit," she told the Daily Mail. "In the end, it had gone from a circle — like a freckle — to a more jagged shape…it was never painful, just a bit itchy. I'd rub it all the time but never thought anything of it until that friend pointed it out."

Following her diagnosis, Sheaf underwent 15 separate surgeries to remove the cancerous cells and reconstruct her face, which was left with a large, gaping hole from the various surgeries. Despite the numerous procedures (plus radiation and immunotherapy), the cancer ultimately spread to her lungs. Now, she's speaking out on the dangers of tanning to prevent others from going down the same dangerous path.

"I know it's very hard for people to take on board when they're not aware of what the skin cancer can do," says Sheaf. "When I watch friends and see people with moles, I really don't stop nagging them now to get them checked. You have to be really careful — I wish I'd known."

Though, these days, it's no secret that tanning is dangerous, nearly all of us have skimped on the SPF (or turned to a tanning bed, like Sheaf) at some point to get our glow on. "There is no safe way to tan," New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, tells Allure. "Redness in the skin or tan that develops [after sun or tanning bed exposure]…means your skin has sustained some sort of UV-related damage."

a close up of a cat © Getty Images

In other words, if you've gotten tanned or burned at any point in your life — basically, all of us — it's important to get checked regularly for skin cancer. For those without a history of atypical moles or skin cancer, Zeichner recommends visiting the dermatologist annually for a full-body check, plus performing monthly self-exams.

But if you've spent a lot of time in tanning beds (which, according to Zeichner, "expose the skin to unregulated amounts of UVB and UVA radiation" and are "associated with the development of both squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma…as well as melanoma, which is deadly if not detected and treated early,") it's probably a good idea to get screened more often — Sheaf hadn't used a tanning bed in more than 30 years when she was diagnosed with skin cancer, but it still developed.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from harmful sun damage, including loading up on broad-spectrum sunscreen and opting for a faux glow instead of hitting the tanning booths. Head to The Skin Cancer Foundation to learn more about skin cancer and the precautions you should take against it, and if you haven't gone recently, visit a dermatologist for a full-body check. As Sheaf's harrowing story demonstrates, it's much better to be safe than sorry.

GALLERY: 10 Tips to Detect Skin Cancer (Provided by Mom.me)

Keep Your Eyes Open for Any Change: <p>Believe it or not, skin cancer doesn’t always start as a mole or freckle. “Although it's important to look for irregular-looking dark brown or black moles, skin cancer can come in all sizes, shapes and colors,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. “So, any skin lesion that is changing in size, shape or color, or if it itches or bleeds, it needs evaluation by a dermatologist.”</p> 10 Tips to Detect Skin Cancer
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