ABCs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting one in five Americans at some time in their lives. In addition to an annual skin cancer exam at your dermatologist, it is important to conduct monthly self-exams of your body including your scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, legs, finger and toe nails and genitals.

Early identification is the key to early treatment and cure for most all skin cancers. Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. When detected early the survival rate is 99%.

What are the ABCDEs?

The ABCDE’s of moles and suspicious growths are warning signs that signal the development of potentially malignant changes. They are designed to help you recognize potential skin cancers early when they are most easily cured.

Look for these signs and symptoms in moles and skin lesions during your self -exam. Pay attention to the development of a new mole or changes in the size, color and shape of an existing mole or growth. Any growth that causes itching or bleeding and won’t heal is cause for concern. If you spot a lesion that manifests the signs of ABCDEs it an alert that it is time to seek the professional opinion of a board-certified dermatologist.

Asymmetrical Shape

Normal moles and colored growths are usually symmetrical (even on both halves) and are smaller than ¼ inch in size.  A hallmark of melanoma is a mole that changes from a symmetrical shape to an irregular shape. A change in shape is just one feature of a potentially malignant growth.


Blemishes and marks are typically round or oval and have smooth borders. Notched, blurry or ragged borders are a sign of a precancerous growth or cancer.


Benign moles are uniform in color. A mole with more than a single color is suspicious. Color changes are a sign of trouble. Melanomas usually show a mix of two or more colors or shades of brown and black, or it may be red or blue.


Melanomas are larger than most moles. A mole or growth that is larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter suggests melanoma.


Benign moles look the same over time. A mole that is evolving its shape, color, or size or that develops a new symptom like bleeding, itching or crusting is more likely to be dangerous.

How to conduct a full body self-exam

Examine your body in front of a mirror. Check your hands, fingernails, arms, palms, underarms, the back and front of your legs, between your toes and the soles of your feet. Examine your back and buttocks, and your face, neck and scalp. Skin exams can reduce your risk of dying of melanoma.

One in forty white women are likely to develop melanoma. Hispanic women have a higher incidence of melanoma. In women melanomas typically develop on their legs. By age 50, men are more likely to develop melanoma than women. Men at any age are twice as likely to die of melanoma than women. When caught early melanoma is almost always curable.

According to the Texas Medical Association, one in three Texans will develop skin cancer. National estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. Texas ranks lower in the diagnosis of melanoma and experiences lower survival rates from melanoma. *

When you have a skin cancer concern, contact Texas Skin Cancer Center in North Cypress, Willowbrook, Memorial City and Katy to schedule a skin cancer screening. consultation. Dr. Joseph Sedrak, founder of the Texas Skin Cancer Center, is a fellowship trained Mohs surgeon who offers tissue sparing surgery with a high cure rate. Don’t delay.

* Hopkins ZH, et al. Melanoma prognosis in the United States: Identifying barriers for improved care. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 May;80(5):1256-1262. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.01.003. Epub 2019 Jan 17.

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