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USC rower raises melanoma awareness

Junior Sara Bilimoria educates youth on the dangers of skin cancer

Rower Sara Bilimoria
Sara Bilimoria, center, competes in the Pac-12 Invitational in March. (Photo/Chris and Mike Modlin)

For rower Sara Bilimoria, the off-season has been busy.

After helping push the Women of Troy to a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Rowing Championships, the undergrad boarded a plane to Europe, where she immersed herself in Spanish culture for a month.

But upon returning to her hometown in Illinois, Bilimoria refused to settle into a summer break. Instead, she accepted an unpaid internship at Skin of Steel (SOS), a nonprofit focused on supporting melanoma research and sun safety awareness. Committing to an average of 15 hours each week, Bilimoria served as the college campaign coordinator.

Community outreach

Bilimoria has been involved with the community outreach efforts of SOS since high school. Through her work as a volunteer, her eyes were opened to the startling reality of skin cancer in young Americans, particularly those with increased sun exposure, such as rowers. Melanoma, she found, is the second-most prevalent type of cancer for individuals under 30.

“As Trojans, my teammates and I value our youth, our athleticism, our time outside, and our sport of rowing,” Bilimoria said. “But as young adults who spend extended amounts of time in the sun, we are part of the target demographic for melanoma.”

One person can have a huge impact; you just have to surround yourself with the right community to affect change.

Sara Bilimoria

Believing in the power of awareness, the starboard rower dedicated her summer to educating youth on the importance of skin protection. But Bilimoria’s work will not stop when the fall season kicks into gear.

“We are planning to use this season, and hopefully future seasons, to channel our hard work toward this cause,” she said, referring to a new campaign called the Meters for Melanoma Tissue Bank.

Melanoma tissue bank in the works

This year, Bilimoria and the USC rowing team will seek donations based on the number of kilometers they race in competition. The funds will be donated to help SOS begin the first Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium. A tissue bank does not yet exist for melanoma, but it is a crucial step toward the development of treatments for cancer patients.

Moreover, Bilimoria’s commitment will extend beyond USC. Her work with SOS has inspired the athlete to pursue a career as a doctor.

“One of the reasons I came to USC was to be surrounded by like-minded people, with service being a core principle of the Trojan Family,” she said. “One person can have a huge impact; you just have to surround yourself with the right community to affect change.”

To support the Meters for Melanoma Tissue Bank, contact Matt Ackels at

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USC rower raises melanoma awareness

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