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A Woman Looks At A Mole On Her Shoulder, Performing A Skin Cancer Screening On Herself

The ABCDEs of Melanoma: How to Identify Skin Cancer

When was the last time you took a close look at your skin? As we age, it’s natural to start finding more spots and freckles on our bodies. But how do you know if you’ve found a sunspot or something more serious? When performing your own skin cancer screening, all you have to do is remember the ABCDEs of melanoma.

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the team at Advanced Dermatology of North Central Ohio is here to raise awareness about this simple self-examination you can perform at home. Because while melanoma is one of the rarest forms of skin cancer, it is also one of the most dangerous. Let’s dive into what melanomas are and how to identify skin cancer with this simple guide.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, though it isn’t the only type. Its danger comes from the fact that it grows and spreads more easily to other parts of the body than other forms of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in cells called melanocytes, so named because they produce melanin, which gives skin its tan or brown color.

Most other types of skin cancer start in the top layer of the skin. Melanoma, on the other hand, occurs far deeper. If not caught and treated early, it can quickly spread to other areas.

What is the ABCDE Rule of Melanoma?

Dermatologists throughout the country follow the lead of the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology by using the ABCDE rule to identify skin cancer.

A is for Asymmetry

Melanomas are typically asymmetrical rather than perfectly round. If you draw a line through the middle of the mole or spot on your skin, do the halves line up? If not, you should call your dermatologist right away.

B is for Border

Melanomas also tend not to have smooth edges. Are the borders of your mole or spot irregular, scalloped, or hard to define? Odd borders could be a sign of skin cancer.

C is for Color

Most melanomas are brown or black because they originate in melanin-producing cells, though not always. Is the color of your mole or spot inconsistent, with shades of tan, brown or black, or areas that are red, white, or blue? Varying or irregular colors are a red flag for your skin.

D is for Diameter

Check the size of your mole or spot from one side to another. Melanomas are typically larger than 6mm, or the size of a standard pencil eraser. However, they can be smaller. If your spot shows other warning signs and is smaller than 6mm, you should still visit a dermatologist.

E is for Evolving

Has your mole or spot changed over time, becoming larger or changing color? Keep an eye out for any moles, spots, or skin growths that look different from others on your body or change in appearance over time. Use the “ugly duckling” principle—melanoma tumors usually appear strange and stand out from non-cancerous spots elsewhere on your body.

Other Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

Our board-certified dermatologists use the ABCDE rule to help diagnose and classify melanomas, and we encourage all our patients to self-examine with these guidelines in mind. However, if you experience any of these additional warning signs and symptoms, call us for an appointment:

  • A sore that won’t heal, or that heals and comes back
  • Redness or swelling around a mole or spot
  • A change in sensation around a mole, such as itching, tenderness, or pain
  • Changes to the surface of a mole or spot, such as oozing, bleeding, or scaling

Most melanomas don’t begin in moles—only 20–30%. Much more commonly, they form on skin that appears otherwise normal. That’s why it’s crucial to examine your skin for any new or changing spots.

Have You Noticed a Change? Schedule Your Annual Skin Cancer Screening!

Early detection is absolutely crucial when it comes to melanoma skin cancer. That’s why we recommend scheduling a professional skin cancer screening once a year. If you are due for a screening or have noticed any of the above signs and symptoms, call Advanced Dermatology of North Central Ohio today. Our dermatologists are here to give you peace of mind!

Skin Cancer Screening in North Central Ohio

Skin cancer can be challenging to detect. Tumors can appear in places that are difficult to see or change in ways too subtle for most of us to notice. At Advanced Dermatology of North Central Ohio, our board-certified dermatologists are highly qualified to identify and treat all forms of skin cancer and can monitor your skin diligently. Don’t be shy about your skin—call (419) 664-5138 or send us a message online today.


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