Sometimes my patients worry about skin cancer and ask me about their risk. I tell them that skin cancer is rare and of course death from skin cancer is rarer still so they shouldn’t worry about it, as worry isn’t good for them.
Sometimes I get a phone call from an anxious patient, they have noticed a scaly spot on their arm or their leg. I say its likely to be perfectly ok and they should sit down , drink a drink of cold water , wait for an hour and if they are still concerned ring me back then. This works a treat and I rarely get people calling back so this saves me a lot of work and of course it saves them anxiety too because most scaly spots don't end up being cancer.
Every now and then, one of my patients will get a melanoma and even die. This is really terrible and one of the very sad aspects to my work. Of course this is just one of those things that happens from time to time. We really don’t know why it happens to some people and not others. I don’t say this to them of course but they probably got it because they didn’t “slip, slop, slap” when they were young, or they ignored a mole when it changed in appearance.
I’ve recently attended the Australian and New Zealand national congress of dermatologists (ANZD). There I heard about this group called Skinaware. They have this public awareness campaign that says that more than 2,000 people die of skin cancer every year (2,162 people died of skin cancer in 2015). That’s only 6 a day! I really don’t think this group needs to be worrying everyone about 6 deaths a day! They say that people should check their skin and go see their dermatologist if they are concerned. They also suggest that we should all slip, slop, slap and slide and report changes in moles. I am concerned that they are scaring people unnecessarily. As I said before most people have lovely healthy skin and don’t get skin cancer and so there really isn’t much point in talking about how many skin cancer deaths there are as what we don’t want is an army of concerned patients presenting unnecessarily to their dermatologist.
We did talk about having a skin awareness campaign at ANZD but it was agreed that its really too early for such a campaign and, anyway, what would we say? Let me say again deaths from skin cancer are rare, the vast majority of people with skin won't get skin cancer or die so we shouldn’t worry people with a public awareness campaign. Let’s just allow everyone to enjoy their skin and not worry about the possibility of skin cancer when we really can’t stop deaths from skin cancer anyway.
Dr D.O. Good
(This is a parody of the current view about stillbirth and stillbirth awareness in Australia….and indeed the world)