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How Can We Talk To Friends About Skin Cancer Dangers?

I recently saw a Facebook post from a friend. She mentioned that she had X number of weeks left to get a tan during spring break and I have to admit, I was jealous. You see, spring break used to mean the same thing to me before being diagnosed with skin cancer. Growing up, I always worked on my tan during the week we were out of school for the break. And every weekend during the warm weather, you’d find me “laying out.” Mind you, that was many years ago but I still miss it. When I saw her post I wondered to myself, “How do I talk to my friends about skin cancer?

The numbers speak for themselves

According to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation1, Florida has the second highest rate of melanoma in the country. Not only that but take a look at some of the statistics: Approximately one in ten Floridians have been told they have skin cancer (9.2%).1

“In Florida, 17% of people reported having a sunburn within the last year, with adults 18-44 years old nearly twice as likely to have a sunburn (33%).1

Sure, everyone doesn’t live in Florida and that’s not the point although the statistics are alarming.

How do you talk to family and friends about skin cancer?

It’s not just that friend that has mentioned tanning. I have plenty of friends who get tanned in the sun, use the services of tanning salons, and one that even owns one.

Awareness is key. While some people may not think it can happen to them, and it may not, being aware of the dangers is important. And knowledge coming from someone who has experienced it firsthand may help. Especially if that person is a friend.

No one likes someone who is preachy but perhaps asking your friend if they worry about skin cancer may open the door to dialogue about it. If you love and cherish your friends, it doesn’t hurt to mention it to them without being judgmental. And if they love you just as much, they’ll appreciate that you cared enough to discuss it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. AIM At Melanoma Foundation. Melanoma By The State: Florida.


  • SusanByShore
    4 weeks ago

    I lost both parents to malignant melanoma, BCC & SCC and battle skin cancers myself. Unfortunately, it’s my family’s legacy. My dad had red hair, vibrant blue eyes & fair complexion which I inherited. My mom on the other hand had darker complexion, green eyes and light brown hair. Dad worked on the railroad every summer during college breaks- often shirtless & got severely burned many times throughout those years. Mom did tanning with friends; baby oil & iodine & also had sunburns initially before tanning. She was diagnosed first in her early 60’s & managed to live until 84. Dad however wasn’t as lucky. He was diagnosed in his later 60’s followed up religiously with dermatologist visits every 3 months. Somehow, they missed something as he called me in late December to tell me he’d found a lump in his armpit. As a nurse, I knew immediately this signaled lymphatic spread. He was seen immediately at MSK diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Within one month he was in surgery for brain tumors but died less than 4 months from the phone call after melanoma had spread to his liver.
    I have Atypical Nevus Syndrome (I jokingly calledConnect the Dot Syndrome) & see my dermatologist more often than my family. Between skin checks every 3 months, multiple biopsies every time & surgery or treatments it’s a constant battle.
    My friends still use a tanning beds, bake at the beach or pool all summer & don’t believe they’re at risk for skin cancers. It’s become frustrating trying to convince them otherwise. My own son will be 40 years old, got burned in his teens & has been with me through some of the worst surgeries yet won’t see a dermatologist. His coloring favors my mom, albeit even darker skin. He’s extremely knowledgeable in terms of medicine; is an ALS certified Paramedic yet doesn’t want to admit family history alone warrants regular dermatologist checks. My daughter’s had multiple moles removed from her back that were problematic, is obviously knowledgeable since she’s finishing medical school in several months but also makes excuses.
    I believe there’s less focus, publicity, media coverage etc regarding all skin cancers. Despite increasing numbers of people diagnosed with skin cancers, when compared to breast, colon, pancreatic cancers, skin cancer isn’t given nearly as much coverage. Nor do people believe it can kill. I’d love to see a real push to change this. The “It’s only skin cancer” mentality must be changed.

  • Nina M moderator
    3 weeks ago

    @SusanByShore, it’s interesting that the commenter below mentioned not listening to his mom and ending up with aggressive skin cancer, and also that he worked an outdoor trade much like your dad over the summer. It’s horrifying how silently melanoma and some other skin cancers can move. It sounds like there was very little time to come to terms with the diagnosis before his death. It certainly feels like a family legacy, or curse. I’m glad you’re being proactive and vigilant, as impossible as it can feel sometimes.

    With both your friends and your kids, you reminded me of a couple of articles. Judy’s daughter is a little younger and less knowledgable, but similarly in denial about the risks:

    Scott talks here about both extended family and friends who don’t listen:

    I love that you’re thinking about turning this frustration, anger, and personal history toward awareness efforts. Organizations like the Melanoma Action Coalition and Polka Dot Mama might be able to help you get involved.

    Thank you for posting these thoughts and please do so anytime!

    – Nina, Team

  • wseverin
    8 months ago

    Hell, I didn’t listen to mom or anyone. And, of course, at 62 I wound up with sebaceous carcinoma. I knew something had to be wrong because I’ve worked construction for 50 years, I started at 12. But never something as vicious as s.c. It’s gone…. for now. It could or will in the future the doctor told me. But talking to someone about it is like talking to a brick wall. Sorry. Warren Severin

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