The ABCDEs of melanoma

Of the many forms of skin cancer, melanoma is one of the most talked about because of its high mortality rates. Though only 2.3% of all skin cancers are melanoma, this condition contributes to 75% of all skin cancer deaths. That is the depressing news. The good news is that a large portion of melanoma related deaths are preventable. The key is early recognition and treatment, and by simply doing regular self-examinations at home this can be easily achieved.

Knowing what to look for during self-checks is all about the ABCDEs:

– Asymmetry: regular moles tend to have a regular shape (often circular), spots that are clearly asymmetrical should be taken note of and shown to a medical professional for assessment.

– Border: the borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven, with notches and scallops potentially present as well.

– Colour: a multitude of different shades or colours present on the spot is a potential warning sign

– Diameter: most melanomas are greater than 6mm diameter when they are diagnosed, however just because a spot is smaller than this doesn’t mean the chance of melanoma is ruled out

– Evolving: any changes in the characteristics of a spot should be monitored. Things to watch for are changes can occur in size, colour, elevation and symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or crusting.

If you identify a lesion with some or all of these characteristics, you should see your GP as soon as possible. Lesions that itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also alarm signals.

While the ABCDE’s are a great for detecting the majority of melanomas, it is not so good for identifying the most dangerous form of melanoma called nodular melanoma. As a result, we should all also look for skin lesions that are:

  • Elevated above the skin
  • Firm to touch
  • Growing

Other non-malignant growths also exist that can show similar symptoms to a melanoma, such as seborrheic keratosis. Therefore, it is very important to seek professional medical advice to confirm any suspicions and to reach a diagnosis. When in doubt, check with your GP!

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