All About Atypical Moles: Learn the ABCDEs of Melanoma

Mar 01, 2024

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If you’re reading this post, you certainly know your ABCs. But did you know the first step in reading is also an important part of skin cancer detection?

The ABCDE method of evaluating unusual moles is approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society as a simple but effective tool to help people spot early indicators of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In this post, the team at Luminary Dermatology provides a review of the method to help you identify unusual-looking moles, so you can seek early evaluation for skin cancer.

Learning the ABCs of melanoma

Unusual moles can be a key indicator of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. The ABCDE method was established to help people remember the key changes and characteristics often associated with cancerous lesions.

A is for asymmetry

Asymmetry means two sides are uneven or don’t match. Imagine drawing a line through the center of a mole. If each side looks dissimilar in some way, this is the asymmetry sign, and it could be an indicator of cancer.

B is for border

Most normal moles have even, smooth borders. A melanoma border tends to be scalloped, ragged, or uneven.

C is for color

Benign moles are typically brown or tan. Melanoma lesions often have multiple shades, including brown, tan, black, white, or even red or blue. Some rare melanomas are colorless.

D is for diameter

Most healthy moles never exceed the diameter of a pencil eraser. Melanoma moles tend to be larger — although not always, especially in their early stages.

E is for evolving

Finally, any change in an existing mole could be a sign of cancer. That includes changes in size, color, shape, or diameter, along with any bleeding, crusting, or itching.

The ugly duckling sign

In addition to the alphabet signs, you should also know about the ugly duckling sign. This sign is based on the principle that for most of us, noncancerous moles appear similar to each other. 

If you have a mole (or moles) that stands out or looks dissimilar from the majority of moles on your body, that could also be a sign of skin cancer. So, while the ABCDE method focuses on evaluating changes in a single mole, the ugly duckling method shows the importance of evaluating all your moles together to spot potential signs of cancer.

What to do if a mole looks “odd”

If you notice any of these signs in a mole or any other unusual skin lesion, scheduling an evaluation is essential. Early detection leads to early treatment, which is associated with a better outcome.

To schedule your skin evaluation or to learn about skin cancer treatment and prevention, book an appointment online or over the phone with our team at Luminary Dermatology. We have offices in Arcadia, Miami, Bradenton, Homestead, Sarasota, Venice, Longboat Key, Bradenton, and Northport, Florida, and Midwest City, Oklahoma.