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The ABCDEs of Moles and Melanomas

The ABCDEs of Moles and Melanomas

  • Asymmetry: Moles showing symmetry (left) and asymmetry (right)
    Asymmetry: If you draw a line through an asymmetrical mole, the two halves will not match. Benign: Symmetrical (left). Malignant: Asymmetrical (right).
  • Border: Moles showing even (left) and uneven (right) borders
    Border: The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched. Benign: Even edges (left). Malignant: Uneven edges (right).
  • Color: Moles showing one (left) or two or more (right) colors
    Color: Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan, or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue, or some other color. Benign: One shade (left). Malignant: Two or more shades (right).
  • Diameter: Moles showing small (left) or large (right) diameters
    Diameter: Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected. Benign: Smaller than 6 mm (left). Malignant: Larger than 6 mm (right).
  • Evolving: Mole changing over time
    Evolving: Any change in a mole—in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching, or crusting—points to suspicion and possible danger. Benign (left). Malignant (right).

When you inspect moles, pay special attention to their sizes, shapes, edges, and color. A handy way to remember these features is to think of the A, B, C, D, and E of skin cancer.

People at high risk of developing melanoma are those who have:

• A family history of melanoma, or who have had a melanoma in the past

• Unusual moles on the skin, or changing moles

• Fair skin, light hair and eye color, and who sunburn easily or tan with difficulty

• A record of painful or blistering sunburns as children or in their teenage years

• Indoor occupations and outdoor recreational habits.

Asymmetry

If you draw a line through an asymmetrical mole, the two halves will not match.

Border

The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

Color

Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan, or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue, or some other color.

Diameter

Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

Evolving

Any change in a mole—in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching, or crusting—points to suspicion and possible danger.

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