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Sharp Health News

Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma (infographic)

Aug. 8, 2016

Moles and freckles are usually harmless — but how can you tell when a "beauty mark" has become malignant? Dr. Caroline Thornton, a dermatologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, explains the importance of checking your skin for the ABCDE signs of melanoma.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma. Do you know your ABCDEs? Melanoma – a dangerous form of skin cancer – is highly preventable when caught early. A dark, flat mole may be suspicious if it exhibits any of the following: A. Asymmetry. Check that the outline of the mole is symmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the halves should match. Cancerous moles are always asymmetrical. B. Border. Look to see if the border of your mole is even. Edges of cancerous moles tend to be irregular or notched. C. Color. Healthy moles are uniform in color, whereas melanomas vary in color, including different shades of blacks, blues, browns or tans. D. Diameter. Regular moles are usually smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser. Melanomas tend to be larger than 6 millimeters in diameter. E. Evolving. Any rapid or noticeable change – in size, color or thickness – is a sign of a cancerous mole. The risk of melanoma is a matter of sex. Women are more likely to find cancerous moles on the legs and arms. Men tend to find most cancerous moles on the torso or head. Did you know that over 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV rays? The best way to prevent skin cancer is by protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Wearing protective clothing and SPF 30 or higher sunscreen is always recommended. “People with red or blond hair; blue or green eyes; and fair skin that freckles or burns easily are at highest risk for melanoma,” says Dr. Caroline Thornton, a dermatologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

View the printable version of this infographic.

For the media: To talk with a Sharp doctor about melanoma, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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