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Did you know self-examinations can help detect cancer early?

It is as easy as ABCDE.

Dermatologists suggest regular skin examinations for early skin cancer detection, but did you know that a skin self-examination between dermatologist visits can help catch early or precancerous growths? Learn how to examine your skin in this article from the skin cancer experts at Suncoast Skin Solutions. The exam is simple; just follow the steps in this article. Early detection can give you or a family member the chance to catch and treat the cancer before it has the chance to spread. The key to an effective skin self-exam is being able to identify moles that are abnormal.

skin cancer dermatologist

Patient Melanoma Success Stories

A client in our Lutz, Florida office reported some unusual growths to us in a recent visit after a self-exam. We froze off the suspicious ones and sent some of them off after performing a punch biopsy for the pathologist to review. All ended well.

Another Florida patient reported Suncoast’s dermatologists catching her melanoma early and being cancer-free for the following five years.

Identifying Normal vs Abnormal Moles

Typical or normal moles are usually one color, ranging from light to dark. Common mole colors are lighter browns such as tan, medium or dark brown, or black. They generally have a border which clearly distinguishes them from the adjacent skin. Their shape may be oval in or circular. They are relatively small in size and on average measure less than a quarter of an inch or six millimeters in diameter.

Any mole that does not meet the criteria of normal, is atypical. There is an even easier way to distinguish abnormalities in moles in a self-exam. Follow the ABCDE guide developed and provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.

In case you notice a mole that doesn’t resemble any other, be sure to make an appointment with an experienced board-certified dermatologist for a skin evaluation.

When in doubt, have it checked out.

Melanomas are dangerous, especially if detected late or in advanced stages. They can appear anywhere on your body, even in places that are not commonly exposed to the sun’s rays. Book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if you suspect one or more skin growths to be abnormal. When it comes to melanoma, the simple rule is: When in doubt, have it checked out.

ABCDE is a method to detect whether your mole might be cancerous.

  • Always consult a dermatologist to evaluate potentially cancerous moles. The self-exam is a good practice to do in between visits to the dermatologist. Each letter of the acronym is listed and described below:

A Stands for Asymmetry

Most cancerous moles have an asymmetrical or irregular shape. That means that if you were to draw a straight line across the mole, the two halves formed would not match. Thus, it isn’t an oval, circle or symmetrical mole. If you notice an irregular shape to one or more moles, consult your dermatologist for a full-skin evaluation.

B Stands for Border

Cancerous moles tend to have notched or scalloped borders which are uneven. Normal moles have smooth and even edges.

C stands for Color

Benign moles often have a single shade throughout. Identify any moles that have multiple colors or have colors with varying shades within the same mole.  Note: While considered rare types, there are melanomas which are colorless.

D Stands for Diameter

Normal moles should have a diameter which is no more than six millimeters or a quarter of an inch. Look for larger moles that exceed the size of a pencil eraser.

E Stands for Evolving

Be sure to identify moles that are changing on your skin. They may change in color, size, shape, or even texture. Make note of any mole changes you notice over time.

Ugly Duckling Melanoma Identification Strategy

The Skin Cancer Foundation provides a second effective strategy for identifying moles in a self-examination. The so-called ugly duckling strategy focuses on finding the moles that stand out from the others on a person’s skin. The moles on your skin should resemble one another. Melanomas will often stand out and look different from the rest of the moles. When a mole shows that variance, take note and advise your dermatologist.


Suncoast Skin Solutions is Florida’s “Most Trusted” Dermatology practice. We have dermatologists available on the West Coast, East Coast, and Central Florida. Call our dermatologist locator line to find a provider near you at 813.321.1786.