Know Your ABCDEs
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It develops when UV radiation from sunlight damages the DNA in pigment-producing cells in the skin and triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Melanoma, like all cancers, is easiest to treat when caught early. Knowing the ABCDEs of melanoma will help you keep any eye out for potential trouble – and then of course you want to show anything that looks like it might be a problem to your dermatologist.
What to Look for:
Melanomas often look something like a mole – but with abnormal characteristics. In fact, many melanomas start as normal moles but then morph into something more dangerous. You can remember the major warning signs of melanoma by their alphabetical designations:
- A is for Asymmetry: A benign mole is usually symmetrical, meaning that a picture of the left half of the mole would match a picture of the right half. A melanoma usually does not match from left to right, or top to bottom, with differing colors or shapes from one side to the other.
- B is for Border: Benign moles have smooth, even edges; melanomas can have ragged, notched, or scalloped borders.
- C is for Color: Healthy moles in most people tend to be a uniform shade of brown. Melanomas often combine a variety of colors, including different shades of black or brown as well as red or pink, white, purple, or even blue. Amelanotic melanomas are not pigmented; they may be white or pink or sort of pearly. They do offer some appearance of change from how the skin looked before, so changes to a lighter skin tone in one spot should also be checked.
- D is for Diameter: Any mole that has spread in area beyond the diameter of a pencil eraser may be headed for trouble.
- E is for Evolving: This is the most important warning sign of all. A normal mole will stay the same. A mole that is changing in any way – becoming asymmetrical, changing shape, size, or color, starting to bleed or itch – needs to be checked by your dermatologist.
Above all, look for change, or for “what’s wrong with this picture?” When a person has a number of moles that are nearly all the same in size, shape, and color, and then one that stands out from the crowd in some way: That’s the one to check. Also, be sure to keep track of any moles of concern, documenting any changes.
Be sure to alert your dermatologist about any changes to your moles or skin and stay abreast of yearly skin cancer screenings. Give us a call at 512.379.6090 to schedule your skin cancer screening or book an appointment online today.