Did you know that skin cancer is America’s most common type of cancer? One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. While genetic factors such as fair skin and family history of skin cancer contribute to a person’s risk, most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. There are 3 major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly treatable if detected early. Melanoma is less common but more aggressive than other types of skin cancer. Melanoma develops when melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing pigment in the skin, begin to grow uncontrollably. While it can occur anywhere on the body, melanoma often arises in areas exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, arms and legs. It is not unusual for melanoma to evolve from moles and can appear as an irregularly shaped lesion with asymmetrical borders and varying colors.

How to know if the change in your skin is a benign mole or melanoma? Simply take a visual assessment utilizing the model of the ABCs of melanoma in identifying signs of skin cancer versus a mole. This mnemonic device represents letters that correspond to characteristic features that may indicate the presence of melanoma:

A is for Asymmetry: Asymmetry refers to the irregular shape of a mole or lesion. Normal moles are typically symmetrical, meaning if you were to draw a line through the center, both halves would match. In contrast, melanomas often have uneven, asymmetrical shapes where one half looks different from the other.

B is for Border Irregularity: Melanomas often have irregular, uneven or poorly defined borders. Instead of having smooth, well-defined edges, the borders of a melanoma may appear blurred, scalloped or notched.

C is for Color Variation: The presence of multiple colors within a single mole or lesion is a concerning feature. While normal moles are usually uniform in color, melanomas may exhibit a variety of colors including shades of brown, black, blue, red or white. This variation in color within the same lesion is a red flag for potential melanoma.

D is for Diameter: The diameter of a mole or lesion is another important factor to consider. While not all large moles are necessarily cancerous, melanomas tend to be larger in diameter than the size of a pencil eraser (approximately 6 millimeters or about the size of a standard pencil’s eraser). Any mole or lesion that is growing should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

E is for Evolving: Changes in the size, shape, color or texture of a mole or lesion over time can be indicative of melanoma. Any mole or lesion that evolves or undergoes noticeable changes, such as itching, bleeding, crusting or scaling, should be examined promptly by a dermatologist or healthcare provider.

It’s essential to remember that not all moles exhibiting these characteristics are cancerous, but any concerning changes should be evaluated by a medical professional for proper diagnosis and management. Early detection and treatment of melanoma significantly improve outcomes, highlighting the importance of regular self-examinations and dermatological screenings. 
For your skin assessment, contact THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546. To learn more about sun protection measures and other ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer, visit WEBSITE.