MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) –Before Brianna Malone runs on to the field at Baker High School every morning for band camp, she slabs on the sunscreen and puts her hair up in a visor shading her face, but last year she wasn’t as careful, and last year, the senior color guard member had the scare of her life.
“I was already told to wear sunscreen a lot, but I think I just kind of skipped over that thinking, “Oh I’ll be fine. I don’t need it. But, in truth, I did need it. I learned that lesson,” Malone said as she pulls back her tank top to reveal a large scar on her back from where doctors carved out a precancerous mole.
“It was a kind of blood-red color. It didn’t look normal. It was asymmetrical. It had a little brown spot near the top,” Malone said her parents noticed the strange-looking mole a few months after band camp and immediately made a doctor’s appointment. Malone says her dermatologist sent a sample off for testing and told her the mole was pre-cancerous. They would need to operate.
“If I wouldn’t have removed it when I did, it would have become cancerous,” Malone said. “It was pretty scary.”
To carve out the mole, doctors had to cut an inch and a half deep into her skin and an inch across to make sure they completely removed it; a painful process. “Having to pull my back together…. hurt. Having to heal…hurt. I had to take so much medicine. I didn’t like it,” Malone said, adding that five months after the surgery, the scar is healing but she will have to return to the doctor every six months.
“The people who are most at risk for skin cancer are those with blond hair, red hair, green eyes, blue eyes, people who easily sunburn,” Dermatologist Doctor Aldo Trovato explained, describing Malone’s complexion. “I’m seeing more and more people who are younger with skin cancer.”
Trovato said often times people forget that you’re still susceptible to skin cancer when the skies are cloudy, and encourages athletes and students who are outside for long summer practices to cover up if they can. “Parents should provide their children with hats, sunglasses, preferably long sleeve shirts, and sunscreen,” Trovato said.
Malone said she’s now making sure her classmates are taking precautions that she didn’t before now.
“Every morning they come up and say “Bre, can I borrow your sunscreen?” and I say, “Here ya go. I’ve got extra. Take as much as you need,” Malone says, hoping that sharing her story might save someone else.
The American Academy of Dermatology uses the “ABCDEs” (asymmetry, border, color, dimension and expansion of mole or birthmark) as a way to help identify melanoma.
This image from the National Cancer Institute, shows irregular moles on the left and cancer-free moles on the right: