'It really was the worst day of my life': County Durham mum describes pain of losing son to cancer

A family from County Durham have vowed to keep the promise they made to their son after he died from skin cancer at the age of 20.

Tom Linton from Chester-le-Street was diagnosed with melanoma - a serious form of skin cancer - in January 2020 when he was 19.

He then passed away months later in May, just after his 20th birthday.

Tom's mum, Amanda Linton

The Northumbria University student asked his family to grant his final wish - to raise awareness of melanoma so that no other person would have to go through what he went through.

Tom's mum Amanda sad: "Young people never think it's going to happen to them, but they need to be aware. They need to check their skin and be aware of the damage it can do."

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK.

Professor Ruth Plummer is a Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at Newcastle University and an honorary consultant medical oncologist in Newcastle Hospitals NHS and she says that if you've got a mole that is changing - to get it checked out by a doctor.

His family are now organising Tom's Fest - a tribute festival with the charity MelanomaMe to raise awareness of melanoma.

Kerry Rafferty, Co-Founder of Melanoma-Me says that she hopes the event will reach young people and raise more awareness about skin cancer.

What is melanoma?


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.

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Signs and symptoms of melanoma

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women. 

Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.

In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than 1 colour.

The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.

Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.

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What causes melanoma?

Melanoma is caused by skin cells that begin to develop abnormally.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas, but there's evidence to suggest that some may result from sunbed exposure.

The type of sun exposure that causes melanoma is sudden intense exposure. For example, while on holiday, which leads to sunburn.

Certain things can increase your chance of developing melanoma, such as having:

  • Lots of moles or freckles

  • Pale skin that burns easily

  • Red or blonde hair

  • A close family member who's had melanoma

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Diagnosing melanoma

See a GP if you notice any change to your moles. They'll refer you to a specialist clinic or hospital if they think you have melanoma.

In most cases, a suspicious mole will be surgically removed and closely examined to see whether it's cancerous. This is known as a biopsy.

A biopsy usually involves removing a small sample of tissue. But in cases of melanoma, the whole thing is usually removed from the beginning.

You may also have a test to check if the melanoma has spread to your lymph glands (nodes). This is known as a sentinel node biopsy.

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