Do You Know the ABCDEs of Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can quickly move to other parts of the body if not caught early. It occurs when something goes wrong in the melanin-producing cells that give your skin its color. Knowing how to detect signs of melanoma can lead to early diagnosis and prompt effective treatment. 

At surgeon oncologist Dr. Trevan Fischer’s practice in Santa Monica, California, melanoma can be treated surgically with a multi-disciplinary approach to give you a higher chance of survival. By being vigilant with skin checks at home, you can be part of the cancer survival process. 

The ABCDE(F)s of melanoma

The warning signs of melanoma are easy to remember and identify when you used the first five (or six) letters of the alphabet as a guide.

A stands for asymmetry

Most freckles and moles are symmetrical, forming a fairly round circle or oval. In contrast, most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you were to divide the melanoma in half, one side would look different from the other. An asymmetrical mole isn’t automatically a melanoma, but it should be checked out.

B stands for border

Typical moles tend to have smooth edges. Freckles usually aren’t raised at all, and moles are only raised slightly. In contrast, melanoma borders are often uneven and form a clear demarcation from the surrounding skin. If you run your finger around the edge and it feels scalloped or notched, that mole could be a melanoma in disguise.  

C stands for color

Benign moles are usually a single color of brown. Melanomas can contain different shades of brown, tan or black, and advanced melanomas may even turn red, white or blue. Multiple colors are a clear warning sign. Rarely, melanoma can be colorless, which is called an amelanotic melanoma.

D stands for dark or diameter 

The smaller a melanoma is when you find it, the smaller your risk. Look for moles that are darker than others, and monitor their size carefully. A lesion that is as big as a pencil eraser (approximately ¼ inch or 6 millimeters across) could be cancerous. 

E stands for evolving

If any spot on your skin changes in size, shape, color, or elevation; starts to itch; or develops a new appearance such as crusting or bleeding, it should be checked out. It’s not necessarily a melanoma, but it could be.  

F stands for funny-looking

Another tool for melanoma identification is also called the “ugly duckling”. This means any mole in a cluster of moles that stands out due to size, shape, color, or texture should be noted. The ugly duckling, or funny-looking, mole is the one to worry about. Many doctors now use the F added to the ABCDE mnemonic for simplicity’s sake. Do you have a suspicious mole you think could be melanoma? Contact our office at 310-464-1864 or book an appointment online today.

Trevan Fischer

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