Naomi, 46, originally from Dublin, but now living in Sligo, was on holidays with her husband at the time.
“It was my 40th birthday and my husband and I went to Puerto Rico in Gran Canaria for a week,” she said. “I got up from a sun chair and my husband thought I had sat on some chocolate.
“I looked at the back of my leg and saw this really black circle on my thigh. I went to flick it off, thinking it was chocolate, before realising it was a mole.
“It definitely was not there before. I would have noticed — it was the size of a two cent coin. It was not sore or itchy. It was just very black and slightly raised.”
The mother of two teenage boys got the mole checked by a dermatologist in Sligo General Hospital and three weeks later got a call to say it was melanoma.
Her consultant referred her to Galway University Hospital to get skin and cells removed, together with lymph nodes from her groin to see if the cancer had spread.
A couple of weeks later, Naomi was told cancer had not spread and no further treatment was required.
The Irish Cancer Society said young people and affluent urban dwellers were more at risk of skin cancer, according to skin cancer trends from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland.
At the launch of its SunSmart Campaign yesterday, it warned that playing outdoor sports or going on holidays abroad, could lead to irregularly high levels of sun exposure.
“As kids, we went away every year on a sun holiday and it was back in the days when sun creams were rarely used,” said Naomi. “I also used sun beds. I think sun beds are to blame as well. I would ban those things.”
Naomi said young people needed to be educated about staying safe in the sun — she had visited schools in Sligo to talk about the risk of skin cancer.
“If you notice that a mole looks odd, do something about it. I’m glad I did.”
The society’s cancer prevention manager, Kevin O’Hagan, said it was important to remember the real dangers of even mild sunburn and tanning from recreational sun exposure and sunbeds.
“While the sunburn or the tan might fade, the damage remains and this could lead to skin cancer,” he said.