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Using the ABCDE Method to Check Your Moles

Using the ABCDE Method to Check Your Moles

The ABCDE method can help you detect unusual changes in your skin that could be caused by melanoma, so you can get treatment as soon as possible. 

Everybody knows that learning the alphabet is the first step in learning to read. But did you know your alphabet can help diagnose potential skin cancers, too?

The ABCDE method is approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation for helping people spot unusual skin lesions that need to be checked for melanoma, the rarest and deadliest type of skin cancer. In this post, Michele Meinhart, FNP, and the team at Starkey Medical Esthetics review the basics of the ABCDE method, so you can help detect skin cancer as early as possible. 

Skin cancer basics

Every year in the United States, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with invasive melanoma skin cancer, making it the fifth most common cancer among both women and men. Melanoma can show up as a new growth on your skin, or it can affect an existing mole.

Early detection of melanoma is critical. When melanoma is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is 99%. Once cancer spreads to other organs, the rate drops to 27%. 

Having an annual skin cancer screening plays an important role in detecting melanoma and other skin cancers early. Between visits, it’s important to check your skin and moles for any unusual changes that could indicate cancer cells are present. 

The ABCDE method was developed to make it easy for people to remember the key changes associated with melanoma lesions. Each letter stands for a distinct characteristic associated with melanomas.

A is for asymmetry

Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical, which means if you drew an imaginary line down the middle of the lesion, each side would look different. In most normal moles, the halves look roughly the same.

B is for border

The edges or borders of a melanoma tend to be uneven, scalloped, or jagged. A noncancerous mole has relatively smooth edges or borders.

C is for color

Noncancerous moles are more or less a uniform shade of brown or tan. A melanoma tends to have multiple colors, which can include shades of brown, black, red, white, and even blue. Some rare melanomas are colorless. 

D is for diameter

Melanomas may start out small, but they tend to grow over time. Generally speaking, any mole or growth with a diameter greater than a pencil eraser (about ¼ inch) should be evaluated for the presence of cancer cells.

E is for evolution

Like other types of cancer, melanoma grows and evolves over time. That means the lesion will grow or change in other ways, too. If you have a lesion that changes its size, shape, color, or thickness, it needs to be evaluated right away. The same is true if the lesion starts to itch, develops a crust, or begins to bleed.

Schedule your skin cancer screening

Keeping an eye out for unusual new lesions or for changes in existing moles is an important part of skin cancer surveillance and one you can do on your own on a regular basis. Still, it isn’t a substitute for a regular skin cancer screening at our Salem, Virginia, practice.

If you have an unusual lesion or if it’s been a year (or more) since your last skin cancer screening, don’t delay. Call or book an appointment online today.

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