Kenneth Beer, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist in Palm Beach, Fla., and the director of, an online skincare company. He is also the director of The Cosmetic Bootcamp, which trains physicians in best practices for cosmetic medicine. Dr. Beer is an instructor in dermatology at the University of Miami, and he is an A.B. Duke Scholar at Duke University. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and received his dermatology and dermatophathology training at the University of Chicago. Visit Dr. Beer's office at

How to Spot Deadly Melanoma

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 10:00 AM

I frequently am asked to evaluate patients who have a suspicious looking spot on their skin. We start with the familiar ABCD rule for detecting melanoma: asymmetry, border irregularity, color that is varied, and diameter greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser).
However, this is not enough information to identify a melanoma. In addition to defining those terms, let me offer some other tips to help you find a melanoma before it threatens your health.

Asymmetry If one half of the spot does not look like the other, the lesion is asymmetric. This signifies that parts of the spot are growing at different rates, which can mean that it is malignant. Benign growths typically have all parts developing together at one rate.

Border irregularity A benign growth is usually pretty well defined and clear. Borders that are jagged or hazy are suspicious. Usually when a border gets irregular the cells are dividing more rapidly and this can also be a sign of malignancy.

Color When the shade is consistent throughout the growth and the same as other growths on the body, they usually are benign. Black or multiple colors are red flags that should alert you that the mole is potentially bad. If you notice that the color has changed, you’ll want to get it evaluated.

Diameter Moles with a diameter that is 5�6 mm or less are usually benign. Although this is not 100 percent accurate, it is very helpful. In my practice I can count the number of melanomas I have found that were less than 5 mm, whereas the number of lesions that are greater than 6 mm are too numerous to count.

There are a few other qualities that I look for when screening for melanomas. Most patients find their own melanomas by noticing something that has changed.
Frequently, moles that are identified as changing are the ones that are turning bad. Also, if a growth itches, it may be an indicator that it has become malignant and the immune system is trying to fight it off.
Melanomas are the most deadly form of skin cancer but fortunately it is easy to cure when discovered early. I like to look at people from head to toe annually. However, if you have a growth that is suspicious, don�t wait � make an appointment to see your dermatologist.

To learn more about Dr. Beer, visit and

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Tuesday, 08 May 2012 10:00 AM
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