The ABCDE's of Melanoma
Too much exposure to the sun is often one of the main reasons behind visible changes to your skin, like sun spots, age spots, and certain moles. Generally, these are harmless and almost all of us have a few on our bodies. However, it is always a good idea to double check any moles that pop up, since some can be more dangerous than others and pose a risk of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the melanocyte cells (the ones responsible for making melanin in your body). A small portion can also start in places other than on your skin (eg - under a nail), so it's important to keep an eye on and check any new spots that pop up. Here are the ABCDE's to look out for:
A for Asymmetry:
Does your mole have an irregular shape? If you draw a line down the middle of it, would the two halves match up, or would they look very different?
B for Border:
As mentioned in National Cancer Institute's website, common moles tend to have distinct edges instead of irregular, jagged, notched, or blurred edges that are hard to make out.
C for Colour:
Benign moles tend to be a uniform shade of brown. Does your mole have uneven colour? Is it patchy or includes different shades of brown or black, or sometimes even pink, red, white, or blue? Has the colour changed recently?
D for Diameter:
Common moles tend to be on the smaller side, and usually stay the same size and shape, while suspicious ones tend to be larger (though they can sometimes be smaller as well). Has it grown in size recently?
E for Evolving:
Probably the most important warning sign of the list. Has there been any recent changes in size, shape, colour or texture recently? Is there any oozing, crusting, bleeding, swelling, or itching? Is there any pain?
We definitely recommend following up with your primary care provider if there are any that concern you, or might be hard for you to examine yourself. Sometimes, it's difficult to differentiate between melanoma and an atypical mole. If unsure, they can arrange a biopsy of the lesion and send it to the lab for further testing.