Self-Care, Self-Exam: Knowing the ABCDE of Skin Cancer

a man's skin being checkedSkin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it’s also the most easily detected — often through self-exams. In fact, doctors strongly recommend the public to examine their skin from head to toe, taking note of the easy-to-remember ABCDE acronym for self-exams:


There’s little to worry about when the mole is symmetrical. That is when you create a line in the middle of the mole, each of the side will look the same. On the other hand, if a mole is asymmetrical, with its two sides not identical with each other, it’s likely that it’s malignant. You can best examine these growths when you use a full-length mirror under a bright light. Health experts caution people not to forget the hidden spots, like the scalp, back of the ears, under the nails, the groin, and the butt during self-exams.


Smooth and flat borders are often a characteristic of non-cancerous moles. If the outline of the mole is a bit uneven, looking like it’s ragged or blurred, that’s a red flag and would merit a visit to the doctor. Check moles every now and then. In fact, if you can snap pictures of them, the better. This will help you and your doctor take note of the changes over time. Early detection and skin cancer treatment, as Salem doctors explain, is the key to better chances of survival.


There’s usually just one color in benign moles, commonly a brown or solid black. A mole that has different colors — let’s say a combination of black and brown — is a sign of cancer. Some cancerous growths can also have blue, white, or red hues.

Note that there are some that look like other skin conditions. For instance, basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) often has a pearly white or flesh color, which often looks like a pimple. It’s still best to consult your doctor about suspicious moles.

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Non-cancerous moles tend to be smaller in diameter and they stay the same size all throughout. Malignant ones are bigger, more than the size of the pencil eraser. Then again, it may be difficult to detect one based solely on the size, as some would be small in the early stages. Observe any change in the moles’ diameter and consult your doctor if there are.


Healthy moles don’t change in appearance, but unhealthy growths do. When you notice differences in shape, color, and outline that should trigger already a visit to a skin doctor. Take note of new symptoms as well, not just changes in appearance. If the mole starts to bleed, itch, or crust, that may signal a more serious condition.

Perform self-exams for skin cancer regularly. Remember, early detection is important for better treatment.