The A,B,C,D,Es of Melanoma

The alphabet is one of the most elementary things we learn as kids, but did you know the first few letters can also help you recognise the early signs of melanoma?

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, and skin cancer rates are still rising despite a general fall in other cancer rates in recent years. As with breast cancer, self-checking is one of the easiest ways to identify potential skin cancers early.

For a successful self-exam, you should examine your entire body from head-to-toe once a month, and look specifically for new moles or growths, and any existing moles or growths that have changed. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also warning signs and should be mentioned to your physician.

While you’re completing your self-exam, remember the ABCDEs: 

 A is for Asymmetry

A benign mole will be symmetrical; meaning if you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match. Moles that are not symmetrical are a warning sign for melanoma.

B is for Border

A benign mole has a smooth, even border, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven, and the edges may even be scalloped or notched.

C is for Colour

Most benign moles are all one colour – usually a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colours is another warning sign of an early melanoma. A number of different shades of brown, tan, or black could appear and melanomas may also become red, white, or even blue.

D is for Diameter

Benign moles tend to have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil, but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E is for Evolving

Common, benign moles look the same over time. Make note when or if a mole starts to evolve or change in any way, and see your doctor as soon as possible. Any change – in size, symmetry, colour, elevation, or a new symptom like bleeding or itching – can be a warning sign.

E is also for Exposure, which is cumulative. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 50% of lifetime UV-exposure happens by age 18! While you can’t undo the damage and exposure your skin has had to-date, you can reduce your exposure to UVA and UVB rays by following simple sun-safe practices moving forward.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, be sure to book an appointment with your physician to have it assessed professionally. Early detection is key!