Years of sun worshipping leads to skin cancer diagnosis for NRL WAG

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Like many young women, Rachael Lee spent countless hours in the sun without adequate sun protection and she is now paying a high price for her years of tanning.

The 33-year-old mother-of-two and fiancee of former NRL player Braith Anasta admits she only wore sunscreen on her face growing up, while lathering the rest of her body in tanning oils with little SPF protection. But she says she never thought she was at risk of getting skin cancer, and has routinely had her skin checked for the past decade.

Rachael Lee advocates covering up entirely while at the beach this summer.

Rachael Lee advocates covering up entirely while at the beach this summer.Credit:Janie Barrett

"I missed getting my skin checked one year after having my daughter so I recently got a biopsy and the doctor said it should be fine, then a week later he called me and asked me to sit down," Lee recalls.

"I was with the kids and Braith was at work and I just knew. He said, 'You have a melanoma,' and I automatically thought the worst."

Braith Anasta and fiancee Rachael Lee have their hands full with three children.

Braith Anasta and fiancee Rachael Lee have their hands full with three children.Credit:Instagram

Within a matter of weeks, Lee had a stage one melanoma on her stomach removed, leaving 14 stitches.

"Braith has been an amazing support, his mum has had [breast] cancer and he kept reminding me things were going to be OK," she says.

The couple have three children between them. Anasta's six-year-old daughter, Aleeia, from his marriage with Jodi Gordon lives with them, as does Lee's 10-year-old son, Addison, from a previous relationship. The couple have one child together, two-year-old Gigi.

Since her skin cancer diagnosis Lee has been vigilant about implementing a strict sun-smart routine with her family, making sure they all wear SPF50+ suncream and hats when in the sun.

Kim Kardashian West has  adopted a new swimwear style.

Kim Kardashian West has adopted a new swimwear style.Credit:Instagram

"My whole lifestyle has to change. I have to get my skin checked every three months for the rest of my life and I can't be exposed to the sun without protection between 10am and 4pm," she says.

While Lee will no longer be donning a bikini, she does not want to miss out on summer at the beach altogether. To protect her vulnerable skin she has taken to wearing full length swimwear that covers her from her neck to her ankles. ""I found Azya Swim on Instagram. It's pretty and stylish but most importantly it is SPF50+ protective. I have three kids, I live in Coogee on the beach, so it's a non-negotiable that I am fully covered."

Nicole Kidman has been wearing full-length swimwear for years, and Zoe Foster Blake has also promoted the covered up beach look. The trend is gathering pace; recently Kim Kardashian West posted photos of herself in a long sleeve one piece from her private island getaway.

"Covering up at the beach is coming into fashion," Lee says. "We worry about what we put in our body, now we need to worry about protecting our outer body."

Since her diagnosis, Lee has encouraged her friends and family to get their own skin checked.

"My sister had to get something suspect looked at on her hand and my mum got something cut out of her leg - skin checks are just so important. I want people to know that sun exposure is no laughing matter."