Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It may start from a mole or arise on normal skin. If melanoma is detected early, it is classically curable. However, if melanoma spreads from the skin to lymph glands and other organs, if is often fatal. The risk factors for melanoma include: fair skin, reddish hair, numerous moles, numerous freckles, a history of sunburns (particularly in youth), a personal or family history of numerous atypical (dysplastic) moles.
To help you identify characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers, think of the letters A-B-C-D-E:
- is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
- is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders characteristics of melanomas.
- is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
- is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
- is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.
Many concerning moles do not have these findings but the ABCDE guidelines are nevertheless useful for detecting a concerning mole. If you have a concerning mole, please contact us. Patients at risk may benefit from mole mapping.