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Stopping skin cancer spread in the nick of time

Correcting common misconceptions about skin cancer and skin of color help a patient take control of her health and support others.

Yvonne's story

Yvonne Basil, SkinSerious stories patient
Yvonne Basil, patient
I always thought my darker skin tone protected me from the sun and skin cancer. This common misconception nearly cost me my life.

One day, I noticed a small mole on my pinky toe began to change, so I scheduled a skin exam with my dermatologist. Dr. Seemal Desai was immediately concerned by the mole and performed a same-day surgical biopsy in the office. This was convenient and also meant I’d get answers quickly, which was a relief. The biopsy results confirmed melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

I was terrified, but Dr. Desai quickly collaborated with a dermatologic surgeon and an oncologist. The team recommended the immediate removal of my toe so the cancer wouldn’t spread to the rest of my body. Luckily the surgery was a success and I’ve been cancer-free ever since.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned that people with skin of color have much higher rates of dying from melanoma than those with white skin. When skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often diagnosed in its later stages, making it more difficult to treat. Because of this, I now make it a habit to regularly check my skin for any new spots, spots that are different from others, or spots that are changing, itching, or bleeding. In addition, I always use sun protection outdoors — like seeking shade and wearing a wide-brimmed hat — and use my experience to teach my family and friends about the risks of skin cancer, regardless of skin tone. I hope this information helps save someone’s life.

The dermatologist's perspective

Seemal Dasai, MD

“People of all skin tones get skin cancer, even if they never sunburn. It’s important to educate and empower patients of color about how to reduce risks. I’m inspired that Yvonne uses her life-changing experience to help others understand why to seek shade, wear protective clothing and sunscreen, and perform self-exams. While her melanoma was very serious, it could have been much worse had she not found the mole and quickly made an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.”

─ Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, Founder & Medical Director, Innovative Dermatology

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