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The ABCDEs of Melanoma

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Think you know your ABCs? Ok, you probably do.

What about the ABCDEs? What’s the difference??

That stands for:






These are the things you look for in “pigmented lesions” on the skin. Pigmented lesions are any type of lesion on the skin that has color or pigment.

Why do pigmented lesions matter? Some of them, like moles (nevus/nevi), are made up of melanocytes, which are the cells that can become cancerous causing melanoma.

So, the ABCDEs are important for monitoring your skin for the development of melanoma, which is a potentially dangerous form of skin cancer.

When monitoring for melanoma, skin growths or lesions that are symmetrical, with a regular border, have a single tan or brown color that is not too dark, are smaller than 6mm (about the size of a pencil eraser), and are not evolving or changing over time are considered low risk for melanoma.

Asymmetry refers to any lesion that is not symmetrical (the same on both sides if you were the draw an imaginary line dividing it in half).

Border refers to the outside edge or border of the lesion. Any irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border can be concerning.

Color features of concern are multiple colors throughout the lesion, such as a variety of tan, white, pink, red, brown, dark brown or black, or any lesion that is extremely dark in color. While the focus for melanoma is on skin growths with pigment, there is a form of melanoma, amelanotic melanoma, that is non-pigmented.

Diameter, or the size of the lesion, can be concerning if the spot is larger than 6 mm or about the size of the head of a pencil eraser. However, melanomas can be smaller than this.

Evolution refers to any change in the lesion over time. Typically, benign lesions do not change much over time (with exceptions, of course), but cancers, by their nature, are growing and changing constantly, even if it is very slow and difficult to see.

Perfectly benign (noncancerous) growths can violate one or some of these “rules” in mild ways and not be concerning. However, any lesion or mole with any of these findings should be examined as soon as possible by a board-certified dermatologist, the specifically trained experts in the evaluation and treatment of these kinds of growths.

If you notice any of these irregularities or changes in something on your skin or if anything NEW appears on your skin, contact Dr. Wilkerson at Fort Lauderdale Dermatology immediately.

At Fort Lauderdale Dermatology, Dr. Wilkerson is available for same-day appointments, and a virtual visit is the perfect way to get help from the comfort and safety of your own home with the technology available at your fingertips. Contact us today!

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.