Is it a Harmless Mole or Melanoma?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011 10:20 AM

We’ve all heard the warnings about skin cancer and deadly moles. But how can you tell if a mole is nothing to worry about — or a melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer?

Moles are growths that form when pigment-producing cells called melanocytes form in clusters rather than being spread out on the surface of the skin. We all have at least 10 somewhere on our bodies.

A normal mole will measure about 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) or smaller with a defined, round shape and constant coloring. But melanomas look different.

“Most often, melanomas will present with five various features. You can remember them with the pneumonic A-B-C-D-E,” says Dr. Joseph Sobanko, M.D., a dermatologic surgeon and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you notice that you have a mole with the following traits, see your doctor right away for a screening — early detection saves the lives of patients with this deadly form of cancer.

A: Asymmetrical shape. A mole that is not oval or round.
B: Borders. Irregular, notched, or scalloped edges.
C: Color variegation. Multiple colors within the mole.
D: Diameter. Moles that measure more than 6 mm.
E: Evolving. Changes in size, shape, color, or texture in a month’s time.

“The overwhelming majority of melanomas will present with features like these,” Dr. Sobanko tells Newsmax Health.

If your moles look the same from month to month and don’t exhibit the ABCDEs, you are likely melanoma-free.

Melanoma accounts for just 5 percent of skin-cancer cases, but causes more than 75 percent of skin-cancer deaths because it spreads quickly through the body. If your doctor suspects you have a melanoma, a portion of it will be biopsied. If it is identified as melanoma, it will have to be removed surgically.

© HealthDay

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