The ABCDE's of Melanoma
By Lana Pho, MD
May 15, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Melanoma’s often resemble moles, and some will develop from moles. The first signs of a melanoma or a malignant (cancerous) mole usually appear in one or more atypical moles.
The best way to remember how to identify a melanoma is using your ABCDE's. Here are the warning signs to spot a melanoma. If you have one or more of these signs, see a board-certified dermatologist immediately:
A: An ASYMMETRICAL shape, meaning if you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the two sides won’t match up.
B: A benign mole has an even border. A malignant mole has an uneven BORDER.
C: A benign mole is one color. The COLOR varies on melanomas. Most are black or brown, with a color that changes from one shade to another. You may notice skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.
D: Benign moles are small. Malignant moles have a DIAMETER that’s usually greater than 6 mm; the length of a pencil eraser.
E: Benign moles change minimally over time. A malignant mole is EVOLVING or changing. It’s changing in size, shape, or color; it is different from the others on your body. It may also bleed or itch.
If detected early, melanoma cancer survival is dramatically improved with effective treatment. In fact, if treated very early, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent. However, this depends on a number of factors. Treatment options include removal of the melanoma, typically through outpatient surgery.
Other types of skin cancer you might have heard of that are more common than melanoma include:
If you find any spot on your skin that is suspicious, or is changing, itching, or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist. Search Intermountain dermatologists here.