Woman, 24, in ‘Barbie drug’ warning after tanning treatment lead to cancer scare

In December 2020 while using sunbeds, Amy Murphy started taking Melanotan – also referred to as the “Barbie drug” – to give her skin a deeper tan but suffered a cancer scare

Amy Murphy is warning others of the dangers of tanning treatments

A woman who used sunbeds to tan for years before using an unregulated “Barbie drug” to boost her glow has been left with a facial scar after a terrifying cancer scare.

Amy Murphy, 24, went for her first sunbed in 2016 and continued to use them for the next five years.

But in December 2020 while using sunbeds, she started taking Melanotan – also referred to as the ‘Barbie drug’ – to give her skin a deeper tan, likened to the colour of the famous doll.

Melanotan, which is unregulated in the UK, is only available to buy on the black market, Daily Record reports.

Now Amy, from Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, is pleading with others to take care with tanning products after a mole that developed on her face has left her with a scar that could take years to heal.

Amy used her first sunbed in 2016


Daily Record)

She has now been left with a facial scar


Daily Record)

Amy used Melanotan twice over a period of five months in the form of a £25 nasal spray she purchased through “word of mouth”.

She first became aware of her mole in June 2021 when friends and family members pointed it out.

After visiting her GP, she was referred to the dermatology unit at the Queen Elizabeth University hospital and in the weeks that followed, she was hospitalised to undergo surgery to remove the growth.

Amy’s biopsy results confirmed a melanoma in situ, where cancer cells are present in the top layer of skin but have not yet grown into the deep layers.

The young dog groomer then had to go back hospital for a second operation to remove more skin from her face.

Now left with a facial scar stretching to around three inches, Amy describes how she was left shaken by the ordeal after medics told her she was lucky the growth was treated quickly.

She said: “Doctors say that if I had left it any longer it could have turned to a worse stage of melanoma which is so scary.

“Hearing the surgeons snip away at my face was horrible and it was so close to my ear. But I’m glad it has been removed.

Now Amy is pleading with others to stop using Melanotan and sunbeds after her ordeal.

She added: “I’m sticking to fake tan for the rest of my life. I don’t care if I have dirty bed sheets.

“I’m ditching sunbeds and sprays for safe, regulated rub-on fake tan going forward.

“I worry that other young people doing these things think that they’ll be okay. I don’t want anyone going through what I did.”

Leigh Smith, Chair of Melanoma Action and Support Scotland (MASScot), said: “Melanotan, which is unlicensed but available on the internet, has been associated with skin cancer.

“Neither it nor any other unlicensed medication should ever be used.

Friends and family pointed out the suspicious mole


Daily Record)

“Amy is not the first frightened young person who will need help as a result of using this. It can often lead to surgery as it causes changes in moles which could then need to be removed in case they are cancerous.

“The NHS is under tremendous pressure just now, please don’t risk your health by using any non-prescribed drug.

“If you want a tan use a rub on product.

“There are several that have been around for many years and have not caused any problems.”

Dr Rachel Orritt, Cancer Research UK health information manager, said: “Unlicensed and unregulated Melanotan products may not have been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness, so we don’t know how serious the side effects could be.

“We encourage everyone to own their natural skin tone, but if you really want a tan, it’s safer to use fake tan.”

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