Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Skin Cancer

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. And it’s curable when caught early, which is why it’s important to know the symptoms.

Skin cancer typically starts off with an abnormal mole. Talk to your doctor if you notice moles that are consistent with any of the ABCDEs of skin cancer:

Asymmetric, meaning the shape of half the mole is not a mirror image of the other half

Borders with irregular edges

Color of the mole is different from one end to the other

Diameter (size) is wider than the eraser tip of a pencil

Evolving or changing over time, meaning it is growing or changing color

Types of skin cancer we treat

Types of skin cancer we treat include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma
  • Melanoma
  • Merkel cell tumors
  • Soft tissue sarcoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Skin cancer care at Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute

Our membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance brings you world-class skin cancer care close to home. You have access to new care techniques and clinical trials that are typically only available in large cities. Additional highlights of our program include:

  • Surgical expertise: We help many people become cancer-free with surgery. We remove only the minimum necessary amount of tissue, so you receive effective care that minimizes scars or other changes to your appearance. Find out more about cancer surgery.
  • Precise diagnosis: We are the only cancer center in the region with experts fully dedicated to diagnosing skin conditions (dermatopathologists). We determine the type of skin cancer and how serious it is so you receive care that meets your needs.
  • Support: Your care team includes a nurse navigator who is available to you throughout your cancer care journey. Our navigators lend a caring ear, coordinate helpful services and make appointments for you. Read more about nurse navigators.

Treatments for skin cancer

Our multidisciplinary clinic helps you get the care that’s best for your unique circumstances. In one visit, you see multiple skin cancer experts and receive a personalized treatment plan. Find out more about multidisciplinary cancer clinics. Your care plan may include:

  • Mohs surgery: This innovative form of skin cancer surgery removes cancer tissue layer by layer for the best possible results. Mohs is one of many surgical treatments we offer.
  • Reconstructive surgery: We work alongside Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) plastic surgeons to minimize scarring following skin cancer surgery.
  • Radiation therapy: We offer all the latest options, including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). We use special technology to focus radiation beams to the precise shape of the cancer for added protection to nearby healthy tissue. Read more about radiation therapy.  
  • Cancer drugs (chemotherapy): You have access to today’s best available chemotherapy drugs. Our cancer experts recommend the drugs that are best for your circumstances and tailor the doses to help you achieve excellent results. Get more information about chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy: Our participation in clinical trials gives you access to promising new treatments, including immunotherapy. This treatment works by “training” your immune system to recognize and rid the body of cancer cells. Read more about immunotherapy.


What Melanoma Looks | Melanoma Research Foundation

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

“Is this melanoma?” This is one of the most frequently-asked questions we hear.

Most cutaneous (skin) melanomas are found by patients, not doctors, so it is important to know your skin and body well so you can recognize when a mole isn’t “just a mole.

” Melanoma can look different from person to person, but if you suspect that a spot on your skin fits the following descriptions, talk to your dermatologist right away. Not all skin cancers and melanomas fall into these categories, so use this list as a starting point:

  • A change on the skin – this could be a new spot, or a change in color, shape or size of a current spot
  • A spot, sore or mole that doesn’t heal, becomes painful or becomes tender
  • A mole that becomes itchy or begins to bleed
  • A spot, sore, mole or lump that looks shiny, waxy, smooth or pale
  • A firm red lump that bleeds or appears crusty
  • A flat, red spot that is rough, dry or scaly
  • A black/dark spot or streak under a fingernail or toenail (that hasn’t come from previous trauma to the nail)

The ABCDEs of Melanoma

NEW: The MRF is proud to offer the ABCDEs of Melanoma in the following languages: 

  • Spanish (US)
  • French
  • German

These characteristics are used by dermatologists to classify melanomas of the skin.

Look for these signs: Asymmetry, irregular Borders, more than one or uneven distribution of Color, or a large (greater than 6mm) Diameter.

Finally, pay attention to the Evolution of your moles – know what’s normal for your skin and check it regularly for changes.

If you see one or more of these, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately.

Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.

Want this information as a handout? Download the ABCDEs of Melanoma  

Acral Melanoma Pictures

(Under the nail bed, this is often referred to as subungual melanoma)

Source: Photos courtesy of Dr. Guowen Wang in the Department of Soft Tissue Cancer, Tianjin Cancer Center, Tianjin Medical University

Ocular Melanoma Pictures

Photo 1: Small choroidal melanoma showing high risk orange pigment; Photo 2: Medium choroidal melanoma near the optic disc showing blood where the tumor has ruptured through the overlying Bruch’s membrane to form a “collar button”; Source: Photos courtesy of Dr. J. William Harbour of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Have questions about ocular melanoma? Read about CURE OM, the MRF’s initiative for ocular melanoma.


Moles to Melanoma: Recognizing the ABCDE Features

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Please click on the images below to view examples of moles, dysplastic nevi, and melanoma.

A non-cancerous growth on the skin that is formed by a cluster of melanocytes (cells that make a substance called melanin, which gives color to skin and eyes). A mole may be dark or flesh-colored and may be raised from the skin.

A type of mole that may develop into a type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma. They look different from common moles. A dysplastic nevus is often larger with borders that are not easy to see. Its color is usually uneven and can range from pink to dark brown. Parts of the mole may be raised above the skin surface.

A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

The Moles to Melanoma Tool presents photographs in three main groups of pigmented lesions: common moles; dysplastic nevi (DN); and melanomas that arose from DN.

The DN section is subdivided into two broad categories: stable and fading, and evolving toward melanoma.

Each case series shows changes in an individual pigmented lesion over a number of years and across the spectrum of changes typically seen in U.S. melanoma-prone families. We include a description of the “ABCDE” features for each type of pigmented lesion (moles, DN, and melanomas). Although the “ABCDE” rules were made for identifying early melanoma, they can also be used to describe DN.


We thank the study participants for their many years of participation, their willingness to be photographed during skin examinations, and their generosity in allowing their pictures to be included in this resource.

We would also to thank John Crawford and Mary King, NIH Clinical Center clinical photographers, for their expertise. The tool would not have been possible without the substantial commitment and cooperation of both the study participants and the clinical photographers.

The photographs in this tool show moles on the skin of participants enrolled in the NCI Familial Melanoma Study. This study only includes individuals in U.S. melanoma-prone families who are at high-risk of developing this form of skin cancer.

As shown in Figure 1, Caucasians are at the highest risk of developing melanoma. To date, this study has not identified or enrolled any non-Caucasian families; therefore this tool does not provide images representative of other ethnicities.

Where can I find information on Skin Cancer in other Ethnicities?

NCI Skin Cancer (including Melanoma) National Cancer Institute homepage for skin cancer, including melanoma.

Melanoma Risk Assessment Tool An interactive NCI tool to help estimate a person’s risk of developing invasive melanoma.

Anyone Can Get Skin Cancer An NCI brochure developed to dispel the belief that only people with light skin are at risk for skin cancer. Although people with light skin have greater risk than people with darker skin, people with darker skin can also be at risk.

Common Moles, Dysplastic Nevi, and Risk of Melanoma NCI fact sheet on common moles, dysplastic nevi, and melanoma.

INFORMED Skin Cancer Education Series The INternet curriculum FOR Melanoma Early Detection (INFORMED) program provides Web-based early-detection training for widespread use, and training in dermoscopy (epiluminescence microscopy), which has been proven to increase diagnostic accuracy during the skin examination.

Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually—Shade is Best A pediatrician from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tells how to protect babies from dangerous ultraviolet rays.

Sun Safety: Save Your Skin! Advice from the FDA on how to protect your skin from the sun in all seasons.

NCI Physician Data Query (PDQ) A comprehensive source of cancer information.

Educational Videos

Dear 16-year-old Me A short film of real individuals whose lives have been touched by melanoma, courtesy of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund.

How the Sun Sees You A short film of people captured in the ultraviolet spectrum, which highlights freckles and sun damage unnoticeable to the naked eye.

  • The pictures used in this tool were taken over more than a 35-year period. They show moles and melanomas from participants enrolled in the NCI Familial Melanoma Study.
  • The pictures show examples of the variability in pigmented lesions in U.S. melanoma-prone families.
  • Because most of the study participants are Caucasian, the nevi and melanomas shown are not representative of those found in individuals with darker skin.
  • Melanomas and lesions suspicious for melanoma vary widely in appearance; these pictures should not be used to diagnose melanoma.
  • NCI does not provide medical advice to users of its website.
  • Consult with a qualified health care provider if you have concerns about your skin.

About the photos

  • The photographs have variations in color due to differences in photography equipment, lighting, and skin color of the individual (e.g. sunburned or suntanned).
  • Photographs are standardized to ease viewing.
  • Rulers show size of the moles and melanomas in millimeters.


The ABCDE Skin Cancer Guide

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Everyone should be educated on suspicious looking moles using the ABCDE skin cancer guide below.

Even if you have carefully practiced sun safety during the summer months, it’s important to continue being vigilant about your skin in the other seasons as well.

Throughout the year, you should examine your skin head-to-toe once a month, looking for any suspicious lesions. Self-exams can help identify potential skin cancer early when they can almost always be completely cured.

First, for a successful self-exam, you obviously need to know what you’re looking for.

  As a general rule, to spot either melanomas or non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way.  Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also alarm signals.

It is so vital to catch melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, early that physicians developed a strategy for early recognition of the disease.

Warning signs: the ABCDEs of Skin Cancer Guide

Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles.

That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body.

Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

A: Asymmetry

This benign mole is not asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.

 B: Border

A benign mole has smooth, even borders, un melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be irregular, scalloped or notched. Because cancer symptoms may vary—and not all melanomas develop from moles—discuss any new or unusual skin growths with your doctor.

 C: Color

Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

 D: Diameter

Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

 E: Evolving

Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see your dermatologist. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.

This chart is not a replacement for an annual mole check visit to MetroDerm, P.C.  Skin cancer is treatable if caught in the early stages.  Call for an appointment today.  MetroDerm, P.C. serves all of metro Atlanta, GA, and outlying areas including Tucker, Norcross, Snellville, Duluth, Chamblee, Lilburn, Roswell, Milton, and Sandy Springs.


Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Monitoring Editor: Gunther Eysenbach

Reviewed by Lalitha Samuel

1William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, United States

Find articles by Corey H Basch

2Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, United States

Find articles by Charles E Basch

3Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, United States

Find articles by Grace Clarke Hillyer

1William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, United States

Find articles by Rachel Reeves

Received 2015 Jan 5; Accepted 2015 Feb 21.

Copyright ©Corey H Basch, Charles E Basch, Grace Clarke Hillyer, Rachel Reeves. Originally published in JMIR Cancer (, 02.03.2015. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Cancer, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Early detection and treatment influence the mortality risk of skin cancer.

The objective of this study was to analyze the content of the most viewed professional and consumer videos uploaded to related to skin cancer.

A total of 140 professional and consumer videos uploaded between 2007 and 2014 were identified and coded. Coding involved identifying and sorting followed by gathering descriptive information, including length of the video, number of views, and year uploaded.

A dichotomous coding scheme (ie, yes or no) was used in coding specific aspects of video content, including provision of information, type of skin cancer, age group, family history, risk reduction, risk factors, fear, and home remedies for skin cancer treatment.

The majority of videos provided information related to screening. Many consumer videos conveyed information related to the use of a black salve as a home remedy for skin cancer, despite the fact that there is no evidence that it is an effective treatment.

Research is needed to identify characteristics of videos that are most ly to be viewed to inform the development of credible communications.

Keywords: skin cancer, social media,

In the United States, skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting both men and women, and incidence rates have recently been rising [1,2]. Early detection and treatment influences mortality risk, particularly with melanoma [3].

Public understanding about the causes, consequences, and treatment of skin cancer may influence individuals’ motivation and ability to make informed decisions regarding prevention, early detection, and treatment.

The public has increasingly used the Internet in general and social media in particular as a source of information [4].

is a popular social media website with approximately one billion unique worldwide users per month [5].

With this extent of reach, there is great potential for both improving understanding or, conversely, creating confusion and disseminating inaccurate and potentially dangerous information.

There is limited research on the content of videos related to public health. In this study, we assessed selected aspects of the most widely viewed videos related to skin cancer.

Using the keywords “skin cancer”, all videos in English were sorted by number of views. Those with 5000 or more views were included in the sample. Each video was classified as being posted from a professional source or consumer.

Professional videos were defined as those derived from a health or non-profit organization, or featuring one or more professionals with clinical credentials.

Consumer videos featured people with no clinical credentials and the originator was not affiliated with any organization.

A total of 140 professional and consumer videos uploaded between 2007 and 2014 were identified and coded by 1 researcher (RR); 10 were re-coded by 2 researchers (CHB and RR) to demonstrate that the coding was completed in a consistent way.

Coding involved an identifying and sorting process followed by gathering descriptive information, including length of the video, number of views, and year uploaded.

A dichotomous coding scheme (ie, yes or no) was used in coding specific aspects of video content, including provision of information, type of skin cancer, age group, family history, risk reduction, risk factors, fear, and home remedies for skin cancer treatment.

Descriptive statistics, including frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations, were calculated to describe the year each video was uploaded, number of views (since the date of upload), duration (in minutes), and number of views.

Chi-square analysis for categorical variables and Student’s t test for continuous variables were used to assess if there were differences between videos posted by consumers versus professionals concerning characteristics and content. Interrater reliability was assessed using Cohen’s kappa and was found to be excellent (kappa=.99).

P values 5.40 35 (25.0) 24 (28.6) 11 (19.6) Number of video views .43 Total 33,722,068 17,685,501 (52.44) 15,631,764 (46.35) Mean (SD) 237,980 (1,053,305) 210,541 (994,412) 279,138 (1,144,002) Range 5131-9,049,986 5329-9,049,986 5131-7,131,624

The majority of videos (61.

4%, 86/140) provided information related to skin cancer screening and tended to discuss skin cancer in general (32.1%, 45/140) or melanoma (26.4%, 37/140) (Table 2). Overall, content was not directed at any specific age group (88.6%, 124/140). Risk reduction was commonly discussed covering signs and symptoms of skin cancer (32.

9%, 46/140), importance of screening (28.6%, 40/140), use of sun block (27.9%, 39/140), and dangers of tanning (27.1%, 38/140). Compared with consumer-created videos, those created by professionals more often provided information (P


What does skin cancer look ? Pictures, plus prevention tips

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Cancer; Dermatology

August 21, 2019

Understanding some key differences between freckles, moles and skin lesions that might be cancerous is a vital step in early detection.

It’s ly happened to you in the shower: Youspot a mole you hadn’t noticed before, or a mole has grown larger or changedcolor. Should you get it checked out?Could it be skin cancer?

Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless ofage, nationality, or skin type. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, morepeople are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S.

than all other cancers combined, and one infive people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer by age 70.

The foundation alsoestimates that the number of new cases of melanoma – the most serious type ofskin cancer – diagnosed in 2019 will increase by 7.7%.

The majority of skin cancers are caused by sunexposure. Even if you apply sunscreen daily and are careful about sunprotection, it’s important to examine your skin regularly for suspiciouslesions, moles, and skin changes. Here’s a quick primer of what to look forduring your self-exam.

Melanomas can be a range of sizes, shapes, andcolors. For example, we have seen pink melanomas, as well as cancers smaller thana pencil eraser.

Since early identification still provides thebest chance for cure, at my UT Southwestern Dermatology clinic, I recommend that patientsconduct periodic, thorough skin self-exams and consult a dermatologist for anymole that is new or changing. Two concepts in particular can help guideself-detection of melanoma: The ABCDE test and the “Ugly Duckling” sign.

There are some easy-to-remember guidelines when looking at skin lesions or moles and trying to determine if it's the beginnings of skin cancer. In this video, dermatologist Stephanie Savory, M.D., explains the ABCDEs of melanoma.

The ABCDE test

Melanomas often are referred to as irregular skin lesions – but what does “irregular” mean? The ABCDE test provides an easy-to-remember acronym describing five common characteristics of “irregular moles” that might be melanoma. 

Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the mole, would the two halves look different? In other words, is the mole asymmetrical? If yes, it could be a malignant melanoma.

Borders: If a mole has scalloped, notched or poorly defined edges, it could be melanoma. Also look for any instances where the border is uneven or dips out in certain areas.

Colors: One myth about skin cancer is that it has to be dark brown or black. But a melanoma can also appear blue, pink, red, or multiple colors and shades.

Diameter: The rule of thumb is that a healthy mole is no larger than a pencil eraser (about 6 mm) – but I’ve seen smaller melanomas as well.

Evolving: Melanoma generally changes at a different rate than background, normal moles. Between skin exams, does a mole look different? Is it larger? Has the color changed? That could be a warning sign of a melanoma. Also be aware of any new symptoms associated with the mole, such as itching or bleeding.

The idea behind the Ugly Duckling sign is that you tend to make moles that are unique to you and generally look a.

A mole that stands out from the “family” and doesn’t look the others – maybe it’s a larger size, different color, or more irregular shape – may be melanoma.

Remember that a melanoma can appear anywhere on your body (even the genitals and bottoms of the feet) so check all your skin, not just sun-exposed areas.

Related reading: 3 skin cancer treatments that might stop melanoma in its tracks

This is the most common form of skin cancer. A basal cell carcinoma often appears as a firm bump on areas of the skin that are heavily exposed to the sun, such as the head/scalp, neck, and arms. Lesions might also bleed or appear scaly or shiny. They may be pink or pigmented, scaly or smooth. They often present as a change in the skin, such as a new growth or sore that won’t heal.

This cancer often appears on sun-exposed areas such as the scalp, ears, nose, lips, and hands. It can also present as a small, pink, round bump that might feel it prickles or catches on clothing. It may also be tender, painful, red-pink, scaly, or nodular. More uncommonly, squamous cell carcinoma can arise within chronic wounds, ulcers, or scars. 

It’s important to catch skin cancer early for the best treatment outcomes, so consult a dermatologist for any skin change you feel is suspicious. If we discover a cancer, we can connect you with a skin cancer expert at the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center for specialized care.

Dermatologists are trained in the nuances of diagnosing skin cancer and unusual lesions. We can help you personalize a skin care routine and skin exam schedule your personal risk factors.

And, most cancers, prevention is key. Our dermatologists often recommend the following prevention tips to patients:

  • Apply sunscreen every day. This is the No. 1 tip for preventing skin cancer. Use an SPF 30 or higher that is labeled “water-resistant” and “broad-spectrum.”
  • Fully examine your skin, head to toe, on a regular basis.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing such as long sleeves and broad-brimmed hats when outside.
  • Limit sun exposure when UV rays are strongest (generally 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, though keep in mind that the sun is still often intense towards the later afternoon).

Exposure to UV rays in any form can contribute to skin cancer. So it's important to understand the risks with tanning and being out in the sun without proper skin protection. Dermatologist Stephanie Savory, M.D., talks about the myths surrounding tanning and skin cancer.

One more prevention tip: Vitamin D is made in the skin in part through sun exposure, and many patients think it's safe to skip sunscreen to increase their vitamin D levels.

However, the risk of developing skin cancer outweighs the potential benefits of sun exposure.

Instead, increase your vitamin D levels by maintaining a healthy diet and taking supplements as recommended by your doctor.

To find out whether you or a loved one might benefit from seeing a dermatologist, call 214-645-8300 or request an appointment online.


Signs of Melanoma Skin Cancer | Symptoms of Melanoma

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

Unusual moles, sores, lumps, blemishes, markings, or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels may be a sign of melanoma or another type of skin cancer, or a warning that it might occur.

Normal moles

A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval.

Moles are generally less than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch) across (about the width of a pencil eraser). Some moles can be present at birth, but most appear during childhood or young adulthood.

New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.

Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some moles may eventually fade away.

Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it’s important to recognize changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, color, or texture – that can suggest a melanoma may be developing.

Possible signs and symptoms of melanoma

The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color.

Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin (known as the ugly duckling sign).

If you have one of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor.

The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Some melanomas don’t fit these rules. It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs are:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump

Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you and ask your doctor to look at areas that may be hard for you to see. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between melanoma and an ordinary mole, even for doctors, so it’s important to show your doctor any mole that you are unsure of.

To see examples of normal moles and melanomas, visit the Skin Cancer Image Gallery on our website.

Remember, too, that a small portion of melanomas start in places other than the skin, such as under a fingernail or toenail, inside the mouth, or even in the colored part of the eye (iris), so it’s important to show a doctor any new or changing spots in these areas as well.


Learn to Screen Your Moles for Skin Cancer

Video: The ABCDE of skin cancer

When it comes to your health and skin cancer, it's a good idea to be proactive and keep an eye out for dangerous moles. Moles can be linked to skin cancer. This is especially true if you have a family history of skin cancer linked to moles.

In addition to limiting your exposure to sunlight and using sunscreens, examining yourself for moles can help with early detection of melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) and treatment.

If you have developed new moles, or a close relative has a history of melanoma, you should examine your body once a month. Most moles are benign (non-cancerous). Moles that are of greater medical concern include those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear in adulthood.

If you notice changes in a mole's color or appearance, you should have a dermatologist evaluate it. You also should have moles checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly, or become tender or painful.

Examine your skin with a mirror. Pay close attention to areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest, and head.

The following ABCDEs are important signs of moles that could be skin cancer. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half
  • Border: The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular
  • Color: The mole has different colors or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red
  • Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil
  • Evolving: The mole appears different from others and/or changing in size, color, shape

Keep in mind that some melanomas may be smaller or not fit other characteristics.You should always be suspicious of a new mole. If you do notice a new mole, see your dermatologist as soon as possible.

He or she will examine the mole and take a skin biopsy (if appropriate). If it's skin cancer, a biopsy can show how deeply it has penetrated the skin.

Your dermatologist needs this information to decide how to treat the mole.

The most common location for melanoma in men is the back; in women, it is the lower leg.

Keep these tips in mind when screening your moles for skin cancer:

  • Use a full-length mirror if you have one. Start at your head and work your way down, looking at all the areas of your body (including the front, backs, and sides of each area, and your fingernails and toenails). Also be sure to check the “hidden” areas: between your fingers and toes, the groin, the soles of your feet, and the backs of your knees. Don't forget to thoroughly check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas.
  • Keep track of all the moles on your body and what they look . Take a photo and date it to help you monitor them. This way, you'll notice if the moles change. If they do change in any way (in color, shape, size, border, etc.) or exhibit other ABCDE features, see your doctor. Also, if you have any new moles that you think look suspicious, see your doctor.


American Academy of Dermatology. 

American Cancer Society.

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