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The ABCs of Skin Cancer Everyone Should Know

February 6, 2019

As the promise of spring approaches, we are once again reminded of the importance of sun protection and yearly skin cancer screenings. Though harmful UV radiation is present throughout the year, the warmer months of spring undoubtedly coax more of us from the low light of our homes to nearby outdoor events, parks, and hiking trails – where the intensity of the sun is much more pronounced. This prolonged exposure to the sun brings with it a growing need to take the steps necessary to ensure healthy, cancer-free skin.

Though yearly skin cancer screenings should be performed by a board-certified dermatologist, it is important for people to perform routine checks of their skin to watch for suspicious warning signs. Following the ABCDE system for checking moles, we can all learn to tell the difference between normal skin markings and those which have the potential of causing serious harm to our health.

Know Your Alphabet

ABCDE is a method of checking for irregularities that consists of evaluating the asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution of moles. Below is a breakdown of these specific features and what each can tell you about your moles.

  • Asymmetry: Healthy moles are naturally symmetrical, and asymmetrical moles are often warning signs of melanoma. To determine the symmetry of a mole, it is important to pay attention to overall shape, as well as any discrepancy in elevation or flatness from one side to the other.
  • Border: To ensure that a mole is benign and not a cancerous lesion, it is important to pay close attention to its border. Healthy moles are outlined by smooth, clear borders. If a border is difficult to distinguish or has edges that seem to be notched or jagged, it may be a sign of something more serious.
  • Color: Determining healthy color in a mole can be difficult, as moles range in color depending on individual skin type. However, moles of multiple colors – or of colors vastly different from those found on the rest of a person’s skin – may indicate a melanoma. Additionally, any mole that appears to be red, white, or blue must be taken into serious consideration.
  • Diameter: One of the most noticeably recognizable abnormalities in moles is their overall size. As size is relatively easy to notice at a distance or cursory glance, diameter is often one of the first warning signs of a melanoma. Normal moles tend to be rather small, while cancerous lesions may grow to be larger than the size of a standard pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: As normal, healthy moles remain the same over time; any evolving changes in color, size, or shape could prove to be a warning sign of skin cancer and should be evaluated immediately by your dermatologist.

Contact us today to schedule your annual skin cancer screening and be sure to continue your screening at home with the ABCDE method of mole checking.


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