Skin Cancers: ABCDE’s Of Melanoma (Mayo Clinic)

Moles are a common skin growth, and most are harmless. But changes in moles and other pigmented patches may be the sign of skin cancer, particularly melanoma.

When it comes to early detection, just remember the ABCDEs.

“A” is for asymmetry.

“You want moles to be perfectly symmetrical, such that you could put a mirror right down the middle of it and the image would look the same,” says Dr. Catherine Degesys, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist.

“B” stands for border.

“You want a nice crisp edge to these pigmented lesions and no scalloped edges or indistinct edges,” says Dr. Degesys.

“C” is for color.

“In general, you want moles to be a homogenous color and not have multiple different pigmented areas,” Dr. Degesys adds.

“D” represents the mole’s diameter. Pigmented lesions being greater than 6 millimeters potentially need further evaluation.

“E” is probably the most important, and that corresponds with evolution, says Dr. Degesys.

“Any pigmented lesion or any moles that are changing are something that really needs to be evaluated by a dermatologist.”

COMMENTARY:

Melanoma is a devastating disease, and must be picked up early to give you any chance.

The memnomic A-B-C-D-E is a reminder of the things you must watch in a dark freckle, or nevus, in order to suspect melanoma. Symmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution reminds you of things that will alert you.

A-B-C is also a good mnemonic when it comes to evaluating an unconscious person, in order to address the order in which to proceed. Here, it is Airway, Breathing and Circulation. If the airway is blocked, it doesn’t matter whether or not the person is breathing, or the heart is beating, because if you’re not able to move air in and out of the lungs, the breathing attempts and heartbeat will do no good. Secondly, if you’re not breathing, the heart pumping will do no good. Another memnomic is A-B-CPR.

The third memnomic has to do with psychology. Here, it is Affect, Behavior and Cognition. Most activities of the brain can be put into one of these three different areas.

I’m sure there must be more memnomics in a world such as ours, and if you know of any, I would appreciate knowing about them.

—Dr. C.

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