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Dermatology Skin blog: How to check your skin for melanoma?

A further word on skin melanoma which we hope will help you decide if your mole is changing and whether you need to see our Dermatologist, Dr Jennifer Crawley.

What to look for? The A, B, C, D and Es of skin malignant melanomas

A – equals asymmetry, one-half is unlike the other.
B – equals border, which is scalloped or irregular.
C – equals colour. Variation of colour from one area to another with different shades
of light brown, dark brown even white patches or red patches or blue.
D – equals diameter. If the pigmented lesion is greater than 6 mm, it is more likely to
be a melanoma, though some melanomas can be smaller.
E – equals evolving. A mole or skin lesion that is beginning to look different from its
previous appearance by changing in shape, size or colour.
Dr Darrell Rigel, MD was one of the co-creators of the A, B, C, D and E of melanoma. He realised that you have to detect melanomas early because if they measured over 6 mm, there was an only 50% 5-year survival rate. He came up with a template for inexperienced people to have the same facility to look at skin lesions as experienced people.

You can download a body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology. You can download their PDF and check pictures of the A, B, C, D and E so that you can check your skin for signs of skin cancer. It also has some diagrams of soles of feet, the front of the body, back of the body, face, straight ahead, side faces and top of the head, where you can draw the location of moles. If possible get somebody else to help you examine your skin, otherwise do a self-examination.

If you notice a mole that is different from others or that is changing/bleeding, you should then make an appointment to see a dermatologist such as Jennifer Crawley here at Clinica London.

The American Academy of Dermatology also publishes an excellent infographic on How to SPOT Skin Cancer™, pointing out that anybody can get skin cancer regardless of your skin colour. However, it is, of course, going to be more common in people who have paler skins and we know from studies that it is more common in younger people who have got burnt as an adolescent or young adult. We’ve include a link to that infographic below.

The main message is to do self-examination. If in doubt, see the dermatology consultant; the reason being that if melanoma is caught early, it is a type of skin cancer which can be treated. But if it is not, it can spread, and it can unfortunately kill.

It is helpful to have somebody with you when doing self-examination because they can look at your back, whereas you cannot see your back. Someone else needs to check the trunk particularly where you have had sun exposure, but not uniquely so. Moles can be benign, but some moles can be malignant and be a melanoma.

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