Protect yourself from melanoma

Make sure you know the ABCDEs of skin cancer.

May 4, 2020


Usually my posts focus on light topics, but this is a heavy one. In recent months, I’ve diagnosed several patients with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. About half of those patients were young women. I hate having to tell someone they have a melanoma.

While catching melanoma early has a good prognosis, telling someone they have a cancer that can kill them is hard.

Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but it’s responsible for nearly all skin cancer deaths. The overall risk for melanoma is low — about 1 in 40 among Caucasians. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common cancers in young adults.

What does melanoma look like?

Melanoma often looks like a new or changing mole. It can be brown, black, pink, red, blue, grey or a combination of colors. It can also develop from a mole you’ve had for years. An easy way to remember possible features of a cancerous mole are the ABCDEs of melanoma.

Know your ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry: One side of the mole looks different than the other.
  • Border: The edges are jagged instead of smooth.
  • Color: The spot has more than one color or has changed in color.
  • Diameter: Typically larger than 6mm, the size of a pencil head eraser.
  • Evolving: The mole continues to change.

How to prevent melanoma

I recommend looking at your moles every two to three months to make sure that none look suspicious. Risk factors for skin cancer or melanoma include:

  • Use of tanning beds
  • History of severe sunburns
  • Fair skin and light-colored eyes
  • Many moles
  • Family history of melanoma

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s smart to get a baseline skin exam. That way, your doctor can determine your risk and be able to track if and how your skin changes in the future. And don’t forget to use sunscreen and to reapply it regularly.

So, there is my public service announcement. I promise my next post won’t be so heavy.


By Erin Moore, MD

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.