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The ABCDE’s Of Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in America. In order to catch it early, it’s important to be able to identify any changes in your skin’s growths and spots so you can get them checked.

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The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. While basal cell is the most common, melanoma is the most serious. One easy way to remember the common characteristics of melanoma is to think of it alphabetically – the ABCDE’s of melanoma:


Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.

Border: The spot or growth has an irregular shape with poorly defined borders.

Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to another, such as shades of tan, brown, black, red, white, or blue.

Diameter: The growth is normally larger than 6mm in diameter, which is about the diameter of a pencil eraser.

Evolving: It looks different from the rest of the spots or moles and is changing in size, color, or shape.


Self-Skin Exam: It is important to conduct regular self-skin exams in order to identify any changes in your skin so you can bring it up with your dermatologist. To perform a self-skin exam, examine your body in a full-length mirror.

  • Carefully check your forearms, underarms, and palms.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and feet, in between your toes, and the soles of your feet.
  • Using a hand mirror, examine your neck, scalp, and backside.

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Preventing Skin Cancer

Along with regular self-skin exams, make an appointment with your dermatologist for annual skin checks. Talk to your dermatologist about any risk factors, such as sun exposure, use of tanning devices, age, family history, or other health conditions.

Protection from the sun is important all year round. Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Avoid direct sunlight and stay in the shade as much as possible, especially when UV rays are the strongest, which is from 10 am to 4 pm. When you are out in the sun, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs, a hat, and sunglasses. Indoor tanning also exposes you to high levels of UV rays and should be avoided.

If you see any changes in your skin spots, make an appointment with Dr. Hawley immediately. You can do so by clicking the button below!