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Tan Skin Doesn’t Mean I’m Invincible

Since my early 20s, I’ve gone to a few skin exams for precaution. I don’t have a history of skin cancer in my family, but I did spend a lot of time in the sun as a child and through college. I had two moles removed in my 20s that came back normal, and have kept an eye on my skin on a regular basis. Last year, I had a mole removed from the side of my stomach. I waited a while for results and finally called to follow up my self after encouragement from the community. Luckily, it was normal.

At my most recent annual exam, I asked the physician’s assistant if the mole that was removed from my stomach looked ok since there was a mole underneath the skin that was biopsied. She said since it was a congenital nevus, it was normal for the color to be deeper than the surface. She decided to biopsy 3 new areas though: 1 small freckle by my shoulder with rough edges, 1 dark small freckle by my bikini line which popped up within the last decade, and 1 “smudgy” looking mole on my hip.

I told my father who is of Swedish heritage about the biopsies, and he said, “Oh I’m sure they’ll be nothing since you have your mom’s nice Syrian skin.” Results came back that 2 out of 3 of the moles that were biopsied were precancerous. I reminded my father kindly that darker skin isn’t a safety net for skin cancer. He was pretty surprised, but it made me think that even educated people can often have a misconception that skin cancer only impacts blonde, blue-eyed people. Yes, I have an olive skin tone that tans easily – but I also worshipped the sun for a long time and know that cumulative sun damage isn’t something to mess around with or brush off.

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