A professor has claimed that junior doctors should get temporary tattoos of moles to understand what it’s like to have skin cancer.

A study published by the University of Huddersfield’s Nigel King argues the unusual tactic could improve levels of empathy shown towards people with malignant melanomas.

Professor King, who is an Associate Dean at the School of Human and Health Sciences, has been working with experts at Queen’s University in Belfast to study empathy between doctors and cancer patients.

Professor Nigel King, researcher at the University of Huddersfield
Professor Nigel King, researcher at the University of Huddersfield

The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, tested the method on trainee doctors and said they had found it “a powerful experience.”

The simulation of living with skin cancer reportedly helped the doctors’ understanding because they could physically see the effects on their skin.

Professor King said: “The melanoma temporary tattoo provided a profound experience because one thing you don’t often realise until you have melanoma is, compared to other cancers and diseases, there is a physical sign of it. Meaning if you have it, you are constantly reminded you have got it.”

A doctor examining a mole (stock image)
A doctor examining a mole (stock image)

The study adds that while nothing can fully replicate the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, the tattoos helped doctors understand the physical symptoms.

Professor King and colleagues now hope to repeat the study with other groups such as nursing students to see if it achieves the same degree of positive response.