ABC’s of Melanoma

Ann's Hope Melanoma ABC's

A diagnosis of melanoma is often made during a routine medical checkup, or when a person finds a suspicious mole and goes to the doctor to have it checked. The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in the size, shape or color of a mole. Moles that develop into melanoma tend to look different from ordinary moles. A good way to remember what to look for is “ABCDE” – Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolution.

Melanoma can appear suddenly—as a new mole—or it can grow slowly, in or near an existing mole. Get to know the pattern of moles, spots, freckles and other marks on your skin so you can notice any changes. The best way to find changes in these moles and markings is by doing regular skin self-examinations.

If you notice any of the following on your skin, see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • A growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, red, pink or multicolored
  • A mole that changes in color or in texture, takes on an uneven shape, gets larger or is bigger than a pencil eraser
  • A spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, fade or bleed
  • An open sore that lasts for more than four weeks, or heals and then reopens
  • A scaly or crusty bump that is dry, rough, and pointed (sticks out like a horn) and may sometimes cause a pricking or tender feeling in the skin

Early detection
It is important to find melanoma as early as possible. The American Cancer Society recommends a skin examination during a routine cancer-related check-up in all adults age 20 years and older. During this skin cancer check-up or “screening,” your doctor will probably discuss your medical history and inspect your skin from head to toe—even areas that don’t get any sun. Your doctor will record the location, size, and color of any moles. If a mole looks unusual, he or she may arrange for a biopsy.

Ordinary Moles

  • Both sides of the mole look the same
  • Regular, defined borders
  • Same color throughout
  • Measures less than 1/4 inch across
    (6 mm, the size of a pencil eraser)
  • Stays the same size, shape, and color


  • One side of mole does not match the other (asymmetric)
  • Ragged or irregular borders
  • Uneven coloring
  • Measures more than 1/4 inch across
  • Changes in shape, size, or color

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