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A Black Mark on a Sunny Day: My Precancerous Mole


“You have a severely abnormal mole on your back and we’d like to make another appointment for you to see the dermatologist”. 

The news from the doctor’s office about a month ago was attention-getting, but not completely surprising to me.

I’ve always loved living near the water and the beach and I have fair skin. That’s a bad combination. Using some very twisted logic when I was in my 20’s, I also used tanning beds for several years to “get a base tan” before spending time in the sun or just when I thought it would make me look good.

Although I am much more careful about sun exposure now and I gave up tanning long ago, I still worry about the damage I might have done when I was too shortsighted to think about that.

During the annual full-body exam at the dermatologist (“you sure are being mighty familiar, considering we just met, doc”), the physician’s assistant removed two moles.  The one of my face he ventured was nothing to worry about, but he did show some concern about a darker mole on my back.

Both would be sent to the lab for testing, and they would call me in two weeks with the results.  I was told to make a follow-up appointment, which I would cancel when the test results came back negative.

When I still hadn’t heard results of the lab work a few days before the follow-up appointment, I called to check on it.  It’s funny, I remember almost cancelling the appointment without asking about the test results. I’m glad I didn’t.

The nurse explained to me that the mole on my back had tested as severely abnormal.  They classify potentiality dangerous moles as mildly abnormal, moderately abnormal, severely abnormal and melanoma.  I had come a couple of points shy of melanoma.

The research I pulled up on the computer showed that I was smack dab in the middle of the most susceptible group.

“These small, scaly patches are caused by too much sun, and commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere.

They can be an early warning sign of skin cancer, but it’s hard to tell whether a particular patch will continue to change over time and become cancerous.

Most do not, but doctors recommend early treatment to prevent the development of squamous cell skin cancer. Fair-skinned, blond, or red-haired people with blue or green eyes are most at risk.”

That’s me, the pale, dumb guy with the blue eyes and the black mole on his back.

Last week I had my follow-up dermatologist’s appointment.  He cut out the margins, all around the outside of the initial cut made when they removed the mole, and sent it off for testing to make sure all the severely abnormal stuff was gone.

I have to wait another three weeks for the results of that test.

Last Saturday when I went to the beach, I used a 50 SPF lotion and wore my t-shirt.


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