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Using the ABCDE Method to Assess A Mole

Using the ABCDE Method to Assess A Mole

Moles and other various marks on your body can be signs of skin cancer, which can be worrisome. But, how do you know if it’s harmless or if the growth is cancerous? Thankfully, there’s a helpful mnemonic device called the “ABCDE” method that’s beneficial for determining when a mole or freckle needs to be examined by a professional.

At Clover Internal Medicine Associates in Fort Worth, Texas, our team led by Elaine Phuah, DO, MBA, FACOI, and Leon Tio, DO, MA, FACOI, offers skin biopsies to screen for and diagnose skin cancer. 

In this blog, we review some skin cancer basics, including going over the ABCDE method to help you better understand when a mole needs professional medical attention.

Understanding skin cancer

Skin cancer is defined as an abnormal growth of skin cells. Some types of skin cancer can develop deep below the surface of your skin and start spreading to other areas of your body.

The three major types of skin cancer are categorized based on the skin cells they affect. Skin cancer typically starts on your outer layer of skin, called the epidermis. Your epidermis contains three layers: the squamous cells, the basal cells, and melanocytes. 

Basal and squamous cell carcinoma are types of skin cancer that appear on the layers of your skin that get the most sun exposure, such as your scalp, face, arms, neck, and hands. These two types are more common and easily treated.

Melanoma can develop even in areas that don’t see sun, such as the palms of your hands and your genitals, and the cause can vary greatly. Melanoma is less common and is an especially aggressive form of cancer. 

Doing a skin check

Experts recommend going in for a yearly skin examination and checking your own skin on a regular basis in order to look for any moles or skin growths that have an abnormal appearance. This increases your chance of catching skin cancer in its earliest stages, which increases your chance for a better prognosis as a result.

While checking your skin, keep these alphabetical criteria in mind:

A is for asymmetry

Noncancerous moles or freckles are symmetrical, so if you were to draw a line down the middle of the growth, you should have two equal halves. However, if the spots are unequal, it may indicate cancer. 

B is for border

Any noncancerous skin mark has a nice, round circle around it. Cancerous growths, on the other hand, tend to have blurry or jagged edges.

C is for color

Normal skin spots are made up of the same color. But, if you have a mole with multiple shades, it may be cause for concern. Suspicious marks can have dark brown or purple spots or may have areas that are much lighter than the rest.

D is for diameter

Any skin growth that’s larger than the size of a pencil eraser (¼ inch) always needs to be examined by our team, even if it doesn’t fit the previously listed criteria. 

E is for evolution

Typically, freckles or birthmarks don’t change in size or appearance. So, if you start to notice any shifts in a mark on your skin, you need to come to our office to have it checked out.

Don’t wait to have your skin examined

Research tells us that melanoma has a survival rate of 99% as long as it’s caught in its early stages. So, if you have any spots that meet the ABCDE criteria, don’t put off an appointment to have it checked out.

To schedule a skin check with our team, call our office at 682-708-0982 or book an appointment online.

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