ABCDE:  Why It’s Important In Detecting Melanoma

ABCDE:  Why It's Important In Detecting Melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that starts in a certain type of skin cell, called a melanocyte. Although they can occur anywhere on the skin, melanomas are more likely to start in certain locations. The trunk area is the most common site in men, and the legs are the most common site in women. The neck and face are other common sites.  A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin, and it can be raised or flat, and round or oval in shape.  Normal moles are typically less than 1/4 inch in size, and remain the same size, shape, and color.
 The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. Any sudden or continuous change in a mole is a sign that you should see your doctor.  Older persons living at home with in-home caregivers can ask the caregivers to check their skin for warning signs when the caregivers are helping them bathe or dress.
The ABCDE rule can help you remember the symptoms of melanoma:

  • A – Asymmetry:  One half of the mole is different, and does not match the other half.
  • B – Border:  The border or edges of the mole are irregular, uneven, or blurred.
  • C – Color:  The color of the mole is not the same all over.  There are shades of black, brown, tan, or pink.
  • D – Diameter:  The diameter, or width across the mole, is greater than 1/4 inch (about the size of a pencil eraser) although some melanomas can be smaller than this.
  • E – Evolving:  The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Other warning signs can include:

  • Redness or swelling beyond the mole
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Itching
  • Bleeding/oozing
  • Scaly appearance

Melanoma Facts from

  • An estimated 9,710 people will die from melanoma in 2014.
  • Survival with melanoma increased from 49% (1950 – 1954) to 92% (1996 – 2003).
  • About 86% of melanomas can be attributed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Survivors of melanoma are about 9 times as likely as the general population to develop a new melanoma.
  • Caucasian men over the age of 65 have had a 5.1% annual increase in melanoma incidence since 1975, which is the highest annual increase of any gender or age group.

Skin cancer prevention:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during mid-day hours.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim that will shade your head, face, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a sunscreen with at least a factor of SPF15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.  Be sure to reapply after sweating/swimming.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.


Photo by akeg