Melanoma is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer. The earlier this condition is discovered, the more likely treatment is to be successful. This cancer most often presents as changes in the skin, making it easier to detect than some other cancers. But how might a person tell the difference between a normal mole or freckle and a potentially cancerous change in skin?
A quick and easily rememberable guide to detecting potential melanoma is the ABCDEs:
A – Asymmetry. This means that one half of a mole is unlike the other half.
B – Border. The edges of a potentially cancerous mole may appear scalloped, irregular, or simply poorly defined.
C – Color. The color of a potential melanoma mole may be irregular and may vary from one part of the mole to another. Melanoma moles may contain shades of tan, black, brown, and sometimes even white, blue, and red.
D – Diameter. A melanoma is often larger than 6 millimeters (roughly the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosis occurs, but a cancerous mole may be smaller.
E – Evolving. A mole or flaw in the skin that goes through noticeable changes, such as in size, color, or shape.
It is a common misconception that melanoma exclusively causes new moles or abnormalities. However, melanoma may affect existing moles. Signs that a previously existed mole may be developing melanoma include noticeable changes to the mole. The skin may become thicker or the mole may be raised whereas it was previously flat; develop crusting, scaling, oozing, or bleeding in a previously smooth mole; experience irritation to the surrounding skin, such as redness, swelling, or spot of color; or even see a change in consistency, such as pieces of the mole flaking off easily.
In the early stages, a patient may not have any symptoms other than the aforementioned visible abnormalities. Some patients, however, may experience itching, bleeding, or pain at the site of the growths.
If you suspect a spot on your skin is abnormal, schedule an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible. The earlier detection of melanoma, or any cancer, occurs, the more likely treatment will be successful.