The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers can have many different shapes, colors and appearances. It can be challenging to distinguish skin cancer from normal moles or other skin growths.

However, there are specific signs to look for that could indicate a skin cancer. You can remember those signs by following the ABCDE rule when examining your skin:

  • Asymmetry – Skin cancers usually grow in an irregular, uneven (asymmetric) way. That means one half of the abnormal skin area is different than the other half.
  • Border – Moles with jagged or blurry edges may signal that the cancer is growing and spreading.
  • Color – One of the earliest signs of melanoma may be the appearance of various colors in the mole. Because melanomas begin in pigment-forming cells, they are often multicolored lesions of tan, dark brown, or black, reflecting the production of melanin pigment at different depths in the skin. Occasionally, lesions are flesh colored or surrounded by redness or lighter areas.
    • Pink or red areas may result from inflammation of blood vessels in the skin.
    • Blue areas reflect pigment in the deeper layers of the skin.
    • White areas can arise from dead cancerous tissue.
  • Diameter – A diameter of 6 millimeters or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser) is worrisome. Researchers are finding that moles greater than 6 millimeters are more likely to be melanoma. Larger moles correlate to a more invasive cancer. By the time a lesion has grown this large, there will most likely be other abnormalities. A doctor should examine any suspicious lesion, no matter what its size.
  • Evolution – A lesion that has changed in size, color, or appearance should be examined.


If you have a suspicious coloration or a changing mole, contact your primary-care physician or the Scott & White Dermatology Clinic at 254-742-3724.

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