Moles come in all shapes and sizes. How do you know if the moles on your body are dangerous or at risk for turning
into the most deadly of skin cancers, melanoma?
There are five simple criteria that can be looked at when evaluating moles. They are commonly referred to as the
ABCDEs of melanoma diagnosis.
- (A) Assymetry - Look for moles that do not have equal sides. If you cannot find a way to divide the mole down
the middle and have two equal sides, the mole is assymetrical.
- (B) Borders - Suspicious moles have irregular borders that can be scalloped, notched or have jagged edges.
Normal moles have even borders. Sometimes the border has what is called pigment spread. This is where you see
two different colors of pigment at the border. This is a suspicious sign.
- (C) Color - Suspicious moles have irregular color patterns. Look for red, white, black or brown colors mixed in
one mole. Normal moles often have one color, usually brown, tan or flesh color.
- (D) Diameter - Once, it was said that suspicious moles had a diameter at least the size of a pencil eraser or
6 millimeters. Recent evidence has shown that melanomas often begin at a much smaller size such as 3 millimeters.
Therefore, this criteria item has become less important in the diagnosis of melanoma.
- (E) Evolution - This may be the most important criteria. One of the most important signs leading to the diagnosis
of a melanoma is change. That is a mole that changes, or a mole that is new has a higher chance of being abnormal than
a mole that is stable over time. If you notice a changing mole, it is important that you see your dermatologist as soon
as possible to have the mole evaluated. This could be a melanoma.
One other note, melanomas do not always look like black moles. Some melanomas have no color at all and look just
like a benign mole, except that they are new. These are called amelanotic melanoma or melanoma without color. Other melanomas
look just like a small scar. These are called desmoplastic melanoma. These two types are more aggressive, and therefore
can spread faster.
One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of melanoma is to have a complete skin examination
performed by a dermatologist. Currently, the best way to improve your chances at survival from melanoma is early detection and early
cure. At Dermatology & Laser Center of Charleston, every patient is offered and welcome to have a complete skin examination.
While having a complete skin examination is no guarantee that every melanoma will be detected, with trained eyes and
careful reporting of suspicious moles by the patient, the chances of early detection of melanoma can be increased.
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