It’s Easy As ABC
Most people have anywhere between 10 to 40 moles, most of which first appear during childhood or adolescence. Most moles are harmless, but sometimes these growths can turn into melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer. Monitoring moles using the ABCs of melanoma can be a helpful way to catch and treat this type of cancer early.
A is for asymmetry
Melanoma typically develops on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, and calves. This type of skin cancer can present as either a new mole or as a change to an existing mole. The first thing to look for when using the ABCs of melanoma to screen for skin cancer is asymmetry. Moles that are evenly shaped are generally not expected to be a concern, whereas those that are irregularly shaped may cause problems. If one half of the mole looks different than the other half, check in with a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
The letter B, which stands for borders, is a reminder to check the outline of the mole. Non-cancerous moles tend to have smooth even borders. On the other hand, moles that have an irregular, scalloped, uneven, or poorly defined border could spell trouble. Any concerns about the edges of a mole should be addressed by a dermatologist.
C is for color
Benign moles typically present as a single shade of the color brown. A melanoma mole may be different shades of brown, tan, or black. As the cancer grows, the colors red, white, or blue may also appear. Any change in color of an existing mole or a new mole that has an abnormal color should be investigated further by a dermatologist. Bottom line: color matters, and noticing a change in hue could be lifesaving.
Diving further into the alphabet
As more is learned about melanoma, experts have added on to this helpful ABC mnemonic. D for diameter and E for evolving are now a part of this helpful check list. For diameter, people should watch for any moles that become larger than ¼ inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser. Evolving means there has been some noticeable change in the size, shape, color, or height of the mole. New signs and symptoms, such as itchiness, tenderness, or bleeding also fall under this evolving header and should be taken seriously.
Sing the ABCs
Regular visits with a dermatologist can be a great tool for maintaining skin health. However, skin cancer can happen quickly so patients should always be on the lookout for any noticeable or concerning changes. By using the ABCs, and Ds and Es, of melanoma, skin cancer can be detected early and treated promptly. The ABCs are not just a catchy tune for kids, but also something that can help save a life.