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the ABCDEs of melanoma

the ABCDEs of melanoma

Education and prevention programs have led to improved screening for skin cancer, which in turn has improved diagnosis and survival rates for melanoma.

Skin cancers may have many different appearances. They can be small, shiny, or waxy, scaly and rough, firm and red, crusty or bleeding, or have other features. Itching, tenderness, scaling, bleeding, crusting, or sores can signal potentially cancerous changes in any mole.

There are a number of factors to look for, which can serve as a general guide. They fall under the skin cancer ABCDE rule:

  • Asymmetry (A). Skin cancers usually grow in an irregular, uneven (asymmetric) way. That means one half of the abnormal skin area is different than the other half.
  • Border (B). Moles with jagged or blurry edges may signal that the cancer is growing and spreading.
  • Color (C). One of the earliest signs of melanoma may be the appearance of various colors in the mole. Because melanomas begin in pigment-forming cells, they are often multicolored lesions of tan, dark brown, or black, reflecting the production of melanin pigment at different depths in the skin. Occasionally, lesions are flesh colored or surrounded by redness or lighter areas.

    - Pink or red areas may result from inflammation of blood vessels in the skin.

    - Blue areas reflect pigment in the deeper layers of the skin.

    - White areas can arise from dead cancerous tissue.

  • Diameter (D). A diameter of 6 millimeters or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser) is worrisome. Researchers are finding that moles greater than 6 millimeters are more likely to be melanoma. Larger moles correlate to a more invasive cancer. By the time a lesion has grown this large, there will most likely be other abnormalities. A doctor should examine any suspicious lesion, no matter what its size.
  • Evolution (E). A lesion that has changed in size, color, or appearance should be examined.

Keep in mind that the most important warning sign of melanoma is a new or changing skin lesion, regardless of its size or color. Changes that occur over a short period of time (particularly over a few weeks) are most concerning.

Anyone with risk factors for skin cancer should check their entire body about once a month. People who regularly check moles on their skin may have a lower risk of developing advanced melanoma.

To schedule your appointment, call us today at (815) 625-4790 or in Dixon (815) 284-1600.


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