Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden reveals how her makeup artist caught warning sign of skin cancer

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Deborah Meaden has revealed how she received her cancer diagnosis, thanks to her makeup artist.

The Dragon’s Den investor opened up about her skin cancer for the first time on Boots’ Taboo Talk podcast, hosted by Vogue Williams.

In the most recent episode, which dropped on Wednesday (3 August), the 63-year-old businesswoman said she didn’t pay much attention to sun protection prior to her diagnosis.

She told Williams: “I was aware of [how much the sun could damage my skin], I’m quite fair-skinned but oddly I’ve never really burnt and I think that was a problem for me.

“I kind of thought that I was immune to it… I thought, I might look fair, but obviously my skin can handle it. So it was a bit of a shock when I realised there was some damage done.”

It was Meaden’s makeup artist on the popular business show who first spotted the warning sign of skin cancer.

“I was filming Dragon’s Den, and I don’t get spots, but my makeup artist had noticed what looked like a [tiny little] whitehead that had been on my face for probably about six weeks,” she continued.

“She kept saying, ‘That’s not right, Deborah’, and I thought, ‘OK that’s really weird, I don’t usually get spots’. I was going off to Africa and I thought, before I go, I just need to get that checked out.

“I sent a picture to my doctor, who said it could be something, it might not, but it could be something. Then he got me an appointment with a local hospital and I went along and they told me, ‘You’ve got a squamous’.”

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. They are easily treatable when caught early.

This type of cancer, as well as basal cell carcinoma, starts in the top layer of skin and are often related to sun exposure. They commonly appear on the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of hands.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Meaden said she had the squamous removed after she returned from her trip to Africa.

“When I say I was lucky, we caught it incredibly early. I’m evangelical now about saying to people, if you’ve got a little odd pimple that won’t go, don’t just think it’s a pimple,” she urged.

“I’ve always looked for moles, I know all the rules about moles, I’ve never looked for something that actually looked like a whitehead. I would never have known if it wasn’t for Sue, thank goodness.”

She admitted that while her current diagnosis is “completely clear”, she remains prone to getting another squamous if she doesn’t protect her skin against the sun.

“My prognosis is factor 50, I wear a hat when I’m outside all of the time, and watch my skin. I do have regular skin checks over my whole skin.,” Meaden added.

Around 156,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, but Cancer Research UK believes the figure could be higher as they are easy to treat and cure.

Melanoma skin cancer, on the other hand, which commonly appears in the form of a new mole or a change in an existing mole, is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 16,700 new melanoma skin cancer cases diagnosed each year.

In April this year, the number of skin cancer cases diagnosed in the England hit a record level. In 2019, there were 224,000 skin cancers recorded, and more than 1.m between 2013 and 2019, according to figures by NHS Digital and the British Association of Dermatologists.