The Skin Cancer Detection Alphabet – Learn How to Protect Yourself

The Skin Cancer Detection Alphabet – Learn How to Protect Yourself

Often you will hear doctors, nurses and others talking about the “ABCDs” of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. This mnemonic, the ABCDs, was developed to help you evaluate changes in moles on your body in order to recognize melanoma at its earliest stages. It is important to understand that although melanoma is the deadliest of all skin cancers, it is also easily detectable and curable when found and treated early.

The ABCDs of melanoma are used by the Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Academy of Dermatology, the National Cancer Foundation and most other institutions and individuals concerned with early detection.

Here are the ABCDs of melanoma:

A. Asymmetry. Draw an imaginary line down the middle of any mole and ask yourself if the two halves match. Ordinary moles are usually round and symmetrical, while melanomas are often asymmetrical.

B. Border. Ordinary moles are round or oval and have well-defined, smooth, even borders. Melanomas often have irregular, uneven, or notched borders. Also, pigment spreading from the border of the mole into surrounding skin is a warning sign of melanoma.

C. Color. Ordinary moles are usually one even color throughout and are most often brown, tan or flesh colored. If you mole has several colors, including black, brown, red, white and blue, or an irregular pattern of colors, it may be melanoma.

D. Diameter. Watch for a change in the size of your moles. Ordinary moles are generally less than six millimeters (a quarter of an inch) in diameter, or about the diameter of a pencil eraser. Melanomas may be as small as an eight of an inch, but they are often larger.

Sometimes, you will also hear an “E” attached to the mnemonic. This stands for evolve. While it is not part of the classic skin cancer alphabet, it is important to know that ordinary moles usually do not change over time. A mole that changes in size, shape, shades of color, surface or symptoms may be suspicious. Further, it it tingles, itches, burns or feels strange, it may be evolving and should be checked.

Other warning signs include a sore that does not heal or any change in the surface of a mole, such as scaliness, oozing or bleeding.

The Skin Cancer Detection Alphabet – Learn How to Protect Yourself

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