President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has cancer, but White House officials have tried to clarify the statement by saying he was referring to a treatment for skin cancer he had prior to taking office.

What Biden said about skin cancer

The president was delivering a speech about global warming on Wednesday and blamed emissions from oil refineries near his childhood home in Delaware for health problems in the area.

“That’s why I — and so ... many other people I grew up with — have cancer and why for the longest time Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation,” Biden said.

By using the present verb tense, Biden’s comment seemed to be a frank announcement about his current health, but the White House press office quickly tried to clarify what Biden said, directing the New York Post to a tweet by Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler. Kessler pointed out that Biden had received treatment to remove non-melanoma skin cancers before he became president.

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Skin cancers are fairly common — especially in older adults with sun exposure — and are often not life-threatening.

President Joe Biden’s health

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s physician, issued a memo last November summarizing the president’s health, and made no mention of current cancers. O’Connor attributed Biden’s earlier skin cancer to time spent in the sun when he was younger, not the chemicals produced by oil refineries.

The memo describes Biden having experienced frequent “throat clearing” and coughing while speaking, a stiffer gait and seasonal allergies, but O’Connor wrote he is “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.”

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