Do you know what to look for in a mole? Learn the ABCDE's of melanoma.
This year over 50, 000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. When diagnosed early, melanoma can be cured. However, melanoma is much more likely than the other types of skin cancer to metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. That is why it is so important to inspect your skin on a regular basis, in addition to a complete annual skin exam by your physician, and to report any suspicious changes as soon as you notice them.
Click here to read about Melanoma on Body1.com.
How can I tell the difference between a melanoma and an ordinary mole?
Most people have multiple moles on their bodies. A mole can be present at birth or it can appear later in life. Sometimes, several moles appear at about the same time, especially on sun- exposed skin. Once a mole has developed, it usually stays the same size, shape and color for many years. A quick and easy way to examine your moles is by using your ABCDEs!
Test your mole for asymmetry by drawing an imaginary line down the middle: do the two halves match? Ordinary moles are usually round and symmetrical, while most early melanomas are asymmetrical.
Ordinary moles are round or oval and have well- defined, smooth, even borders. Melanomas often have ragged, uneven, or notched borders. Also, spreading of pigment from the border of the mole into surrounding skin is a warning sign of melanoma.
Ordinary moles are usually one color throughout and are usually brown, tan or flesh- colored. Melanomas may have several colors (black, brown, red, white, blue) or an irregular pattern of colors.
Moles can be many different sizes, but ordinary moles are generally less than 1/4 inch (6 millimeters) in diameter, which is the diameter of a pencil eraser. Melanomas may be as small as 1/8 inch, but are often larger.
Ordinary moles usually do not change over time. A mole that suddenly grows in size or rapidly becomes elevated is suspicious for melanoma.
Other warning signs include:
a sore that does not heal
any change in sensation such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
any change in the surface of a mole such as scaliness, oozing, or bleeding
Tips on how to perform a self- examination of your skin:
1. Plan to check your skin at least every 3 months to look for any early warning signs of the three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Pick an easy day of the month to remember (like the first day of the month or the day of your birthday), and mark your calendars! Enlist the help of a friend or loved one, and offer to help examine their skin in return.
2. Gather your equipment: a bright light, a full- length mirror, a hand mirror, and a hair dryer.
3. Examine your head and face, using a hair dryer to inspect the scalp. Remember the backs of your ears.
4. Check your hands, including your nails as well as your elbows, arms, and underarms.
5. Check your neck, torso, and for women, under your breasts. Then, use both mirrors to help inspect your shoulders, back, buttocks, and legs.
6. Finally, check the soles, heels, and nails of your feet as well as your genital area.
7. Report any suspicious looking moles to your physician.