Though less common than other types of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
For this reason, it is imperative that you are able to recognize the early warning signs of a possible melanoma on your skin so that you and your dermatologist can assess the best early treatment options.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you look for the “ABCDEs” of melanoma when doing regular skin self-exams. Look for these five potential warning signs of melanoma when examining any moles or dark spots on your skin.
If you drew a line down the center of the mole or dark spot, it should look more or less the same on each side. If it is asymmetrical — not the same on both sides — then you should have a dermatologist take a closer look to see if it might be a melanoma.
Most benign moles are round in shape and have a definitive border. Moles that have irregular borders that do not form a smooth, round shape could be melanomas.
Moles that are more than one color or shade could be cancerous. Benign moles are usually one uniform color.
Larger moles — around the size of a pencil eraser or larger — have the potential to be cancerous. However, melanomas can start smaller and gradually become larger in size, so look for other signs of melanoma in addition to diameter.
Keep a close eye on any moles or dark spots on your skin over time. If you notice that any are changing in size, shape, color, or symmetry, let your dermatologist know right away.
What to do if you notice signs of melanoma
When caught early, melanoma treatments are much more successful. Schedule regular checkups with your dermatologist yearly or more frequently to stay on top of your skin health.
If you notice any of the potential signs of melanoma listed above, schedule a visit with your dermatologist for a biopsy to determine whether or not the mole is cancerous.
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