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Check Your Moles Using the ABCDE Method

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting 20% of Americans by the time they reach their senior years. The most serious and deadly type of skin cancer, melanoma, is often associated with moles, and identifying moles that could be cancerous is an important part of making sure you get treatment as early as possible.

At Starkey Medical Esthetics in Salem, Virginia, Michele Meinhart, FNP, and her team use state-of-the-art dermatology methods to evaluate moles and determine if cancer cells are present. Part of that evaluation includes what’s called the ABCDE method — and the good news is, you can apply the ABCDE method to examine your moles at home, too. Here’s how it works. 

The ABCDE technique for evaluating moles

The ABCDE method was developed to make it easier for clinicians and patients to remember what to look for when evaluating moles. ABCDE stands for different types of changes or characteristics typically associated with melanoma.

A is for asymmetry

Imagine a line extending down or across the middle of the mole. Do the two sides look about the same or are they different? Asymmetry could be an indication of cancer.

B is for borders

Borders refers to the edges or margins of the mole. Cancerous moles often have borders that are irregular or jagged-looking.

C is for color

Moles can vary in color from pinkish to blackish brown. The key thing to look for here is a change in color or a mottled appearance. Most normal (noncancerous) moles are uniform in color. If a mole has more than one color or if it’s mottled or blotchy-looking, it could be a sign of skin cancer. 

D is for diameter

Cancer can cause changes that make the mole appear larger. The general guideline: Cancer is typically associated more often with moles that are larger than a pencil eraser or pea.

E is for evolving

If your mole has changed in color or size, if it’s suddenly become itchy, if it’s oozing, or if it’s changed in another way, that could be a sign of skin cancer. It’s important to note that these changes can occur in any mole, including moles you may have had since childhood.

Although the ABCDE guidelines can be helpful, they aren’t 100% foolproof. Some moles may look unusual without being cancerous, and some melanoma lesions may not conform to the ABCDE system. The best way to identify skin cancers in their earliest stages: Call the office to schedule an annual skin cancer checkup. 

Early treatment is critical

One more thing to remember: Not all melanomas are associated with moles. Sores that won’t heal or are delayed in healing, new skin lesions or growth, or other changes in the way your skin looks or feels can also be indications of melanoma or other types of skin cancer. 

For all types of skin cancer, early treatment is associated with the best outcomes. If you have any type of skin change, it’s important to schedule an office visit as soon as possible, so it can be evaluated. To have a skin lesion evaluated or to schedule a skin cancer checkup, call Starkey Medical Esthetics, or use our online form to request an appointment today.

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