Melanoma Survivor, Nate Bender, Encourages Others to Take Precautions to Prevent Skin Cancer

The month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and provides the opportunity to focus on skin cancer prevention. The first Monday in May (May 1, 2023) is “Melanoma Monday”—a day created to call attention to the seriousness of melanoma and to encourage everyone to perform a skin self-exam. A young North Dakota man has learned first-hand how important it is to be aware of changes in moles and perform regular skin self-exams.

With a history of skin cancer in his family, Nate Bender’s mother was strict about each member of their family visiting a dermatologist every year.

In the fall of 2022, Nate noticed a mole on his lower leg starting to look like a paint splatter and change. He had it removed in Rapid City, SD, and a sample was sent out for further evaluation. Nate had a pre-cancerous mole removed from his chest previously so he wasn’t that worried. But then the biopsy results came back…malignant melanoma. He was only 19 years old.

The procedure to remove the mole was extensive although it was done in one surgery. A five-centimeter diameter section of tissue through the fat and down to the muscle was removed. He will always have a significant scar, but he is grateful the surgeon assured him of clean margins.

Nate says this is the scariest thing he has ever experienced. He wants more young people to realize it could happen to them and to get checked for skin cancer. He worked at an outside job for four years and recalls putting sunscreen on his face, neck and arms—but not his legs. He competes in track and has learned that melanoma on the shin or calf is more common for this population.

Nate hopes that by relating his story, he can inspire more people to take the threat of skin cancer seriously and take precautions so they never have to experience what he went through.

Nate Bender is a nursing student at the St. Gianna School of Health Sciences, University of Mary, Bismarck, ND.


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