Melanoma is a skin cancer that arises from melanocytes or "mole cells". It is a deadly cancer that unfortunately can spread and metastasize to other parts of the body if not caught early. My most important job as a dermatologist is performing full body skin checks in search of melanoma. Most melanomas arise "de novo" or out of nowhere, while a smaller but significant percentage arises within a pre-existing mole. We think that melanomas have a complicated cause that is linked to our genetics (family history is key) but also environmental factors like sun exposure. Tanning bed use has been closely linked to an increased risk of melanoma. If you have a family history of melanoma, have had several sunburns in your life, have ever used a tanning bed, or have new or changing lesions, a full skin check by a dermatologist every year is recommended.
In dermatology, we use the ABCDE's of melanoma to help our patients examine their own skin for suspicious lesions:
1) A: Asymmetry. If you cannot draw a line through the middle and both halves look the same, your lesion breaks the "A" rule
2) B: Border. If the borders are jagged and resemble something like the coast of Main or Florida, your lesion breaks the "B" rule.
3) C: Color. If the mole has several different colors and hues, particularly blue or black, your lesion is breaking the "C" rule.
4) D: Diameter. If your mole is greater than the size of a pencil eraser, it is breaking the "D" rule.
5) E: Evolution, or change. If the mole is changing over time, the "E" rule is broken.
I am happy to closely examine any mole you are concerned
about in addition to a full body skin check. The full body skin check includes all of your skin from the top of your scalp to the
tips of your toes. If found early, melanoma is curable. You can prevent melanoma by protecting your skin from the sun and never going
to the tanning salon.