Stephanie Beacham: My skin cancer returned

Actress Stephanie Beacham, 67, is best known for dramas Dynasty, The Colbys, Bad Girls and more recently roles in Corrie and Strictly. The divorced mum-of-two, who lives with partner Dr Bernie Greenwood in the US and UK, tells how her life has been blighted by deafness and bouts of skin cancer...

People assume that when you hear the word ‘cancer’ you automatically think you’re going to die, but it wasn’t like that for me when I had my first skin cancer diagnosis in 2009.

Something in me went a bit numb but I wasn’t frightened. You do what you have to do, make an appointment with the nearest good skin doctor and get it sorted. And, compared with some of the bravery I’ve witnessed from friends battling way more serious cancers, I’d feel like a fraud to exaggerate mine.

What happened with me was that I’d had a small sore spot on my nose that had been irritating me for a while but I’d dismissed it as nothing when my partner Bernie started staring at me intently.

I assumed he was about to tell me how lovely I was but he said: “You’ve got skin cancer on your nose.”

A biopsy confirmed that the lesion, about the size of a fingernail, was a basal cell carcinoma, not the more aggressive malignant melanomas, which are more likely to be fatal.

I was incredibly grateful it wasn’t anything more serious and after having it surgically removed under local anaesthetic it scabbed up, healed and that was it.

It was no big deal but ever since then I’ve piled on the factor 50 sunscreen and I deeply regret the many hours I spent sunbathing in the past, damaging my skin – my neck and chest are ruined. I’d urge anyone to stay out of the sun between noon and 4pm. Enjoy the warmth but do it in the early morning or late afternoon as it’ll just age you.

I split my time between Malibu, California, England and a holiday place in Spain now, so I’m way more careful and I always wear a hat.

I thought I was clear but in 2011, when I was filming Bad Girls, a rough, crusty patch appeared in the same spot on my nose. It wasn’t a mole or a bump so I just covered it in make-up and foolishly ignored it until once again Bernie realised that some cancerous cells had remained.

I didn’t panic, though. I just thought, ‘This is tiresome, don’t let your imagination run wild, just get it dealt with,’ which is what I immediately did.

So, the next time Bernie stares at me intently I can be confident he’s about to tell me how pretty I am.

Iain Mack