Early Detection of Melanoma

James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 12, 2003

There will be an estimated 54,200 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2003. Melanoma is highly curable when detected at an early stage of disease. Unfortunately, many patients present with advanced disease and ultimately fail treatment. Early detection of melanoma requires regular self-examination of the skin. Professional examination by a physician should also be performed on a yearly basis.

The mnemonic "ABCDE" has been developed to help people recognize melanoma at an early stage. When performing self-examination of the skin, think of the mnemonic to help you recognize any suspicious lesions.

A = Asymmetry - the growth is not perfectly round. It has an irregular shape.

B = Border - the border of the lesion is not smooth and regular

C = Color - any skin growth that is more than one color should be evaluated. Benign moles usually are one color.

D = Diameter - any growth larger than 5 millimeters (1/4 inch) should be evaluated

E = Elevation - any lesion that is elevated or develops a bump should be brought to your physicians attention.

The entire skin surface needs to be evaluated. This will require the use of a mirror and multiple positions to evaluate the back, skin folds and creases. Always report new growths or changes in moles or skin marks to your physician for formal evaluation.

For more information on Melanoma see the OncoLink OncoTip: Sun Protection Tips and OncoLink's Review of "Melanoma: Prevention, Detection & Treatment."

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