"You Should See a Dermatologist!" Persuading A Loved One to Get a Skin Cancer Exam

Health Writer
View as:|
1 of 10

Maybe it’s a friend, a relative, or your spouse. You’re uniquely situated to notice changes on their skin, especially on the face, head, or neck. A mole looks suspicious and you think they should see a dermatologist. It’s an awkward conversation, and they might be resistant to the idea, but sometimes gently nudging someone toward a skin check is saving their life. Here are several common excuses for avoiding a skin exam and answers with which to argue successfully against them.


Excuse: Skin cancer isn’t a big deal; the doctor just needs to scrape it off.

Answer: Skin cancer is a big deal. It’s the most common type of cancer in the United States. In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates that 91,270 new melanomas will be diagnosed and 9,320 people will die from melanoma. More than 15,000 people will die from squamous cell carcinoma and more than 3,000 people will die from basal cell carcinoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.


Excuse: I am too busy; I’ll go to the doctor when my life slows down.

Answer: It’s important to make time for your health. Everything else seems more important – your work, your family, your hobbies. But going to see a dermatologist is only going to take an hour of your time. One hour, once a year for an annual skin check. That leaves 8,759 hours for you to spend with your family, get some work done, or relax.


Excuse: It’s just a freckle.

Answer: It’s possible it is just a freckle and that it’s nothing to worry about. But seeing a dermatologist will let you know if it’s something more serious. Skin cancer is often treatable. Melanoma, the most dangerous and aggressive form of skin cancer, is almost always curable when detected and treated early, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.


Excuse: It can’t be skin cancer; I don’t have fair skin.

Answer: Fair skin, blond hair, and blue or green eyes are some of the risk factors for skin cancer, but not the only ones. Family history of skin cancer, consistent exposure to the sun, a history of sunburns, indoor tanning, and having a lot of moles all put you at a higher risk of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While people with dark skin don’t get skin cancer as often, they still can.


Excuse: It’s just a mole. I have had it for years.

Answer: Most people have what are called common moles. Usually they appear in childhood and most people continue to develop new moles until around age 40, according to the National Cancer Institute. Moles can become cancerous. Warning signs include changes in the color or size, uneven borders, changes in the shape or texture, itchiness, dryness, or scaliness. When these changes occur, it is important to have a dermatologist look at the mole.


Excuse: I would know if I had cancer, but I feel fine.

Answer: Skin cancer is easy to see because it grows on the skin. But many people who see a suspicious spot or changes in a mole feel fine. They may not feel any pain or have any symptoms other than the lesion on the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This is the best time to have the spot checked. Early detection and treatment can usually cure skin cancer.


Excuse: I don’t spend much time outdoors so I don’t have to worry about skin cancer.

Answer: Doctors now know that brief sun exposure during the year can add up to significant skin damage, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Brief sun exposure can occur when driving, walking around an outdoor shopping mall, or spending 15 minutes outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Cumulative sun exposure is linked to squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 20 percent of skin cancer deaths.


Excuse: I stay active and fit and eat right, so I won’t get skin cancer.

Answer: Most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, not fitness or eating habits. About 86 percent of all melanomas are caused by overexposure to the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancer is associated with sun exposure. Staying fit and eating right are important to your overall health but these things alone will not protect you from skin cancer.


Excuse: I don’t want to know if something is seriously wrong.

Answer: It is scary to find out you have cancer. The five-year survival rate for people with melanoma who are diagnosed early is 99 percent. This falls to 63 percent when it is not diagnosed until it reaches the lymph nodes and 20 percent when it has spread to other organs, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Finding out something is wrong and treating it is much better than ignoring it.