Skin Cancer: Know Your ABCDEs

Skin Cancer: Know Your ABCDEs

Do you know the ABCDEs of skin cancer? With the latest data showing skin cancer as the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States, it is well advised to understand the basic types of skin cancer and to understand how to recognize them.

Early detection is by far the most significant factor involved in curing skin cancers. Contact Pacific Medical Care immediately at 619-333-8114.

Lifestyle factors, meanwhile, make skin cancer a mostly preventable form of cancer despite the increased risks presented by global warming. Among the recommended steps for avoiding skin cancer are the following:

  • Wear protective clothing or environmentally friendly suntan lotion to prevent exposure to harmful sun rays. It is advised to use a “broad-spectrum” lotion with a sun protective factor of 15 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning, whether it is indoors in tanning booths or outside in the sun
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat, preferably one with a cowling that covers the back of your neck
  • Avoid severe sunburns and repeated sunburns, especially the types that turn into scaly skin or sun blisters
  • Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days
  • Provide shade for days in the sun, such as picnics or beach days.

Current statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that almost 5 million new cases of skin cancer were treated in the United States in 2014. The rates of skin cancer have doubled since 1982 and are likely to rise further. However, of those new cancers, 4.3 million were non-melanoma cancers, which are the most deadly by far.


There are several forms of melanoma and non-melanoma types of skin cancers, making it difficult for the layperson to understand the differences and recognize them at a glance. However, the medical community has arrived at a quick survey-type checklist for people to use to allow for early skin cancer detection. These are known as the ABCDEs, which stand for Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolving.

It helps to start with an understanding of what healthy skin looks like or how normal skin behaves. Most moles, for example, are typically harmless. They are, in fact, clumps of melanocytes, which are the cells that give skin their color. They are generally flat, although they may be slightly and evenly raised. They are typically one color and symmetrical, although that doesn’t always mean round. Most often, they are oval-shaped. They also appear most commonly at an early age, most frequently before someone becomes a teenager. And their appearance remains stable throughout your lifetime.

Any departures from those factors could be a sign of trouble. Moles that appear late in life are suspicious. Doctors should check these out. A physician should also see any mole that changes in appearance, whether it is a color change or a sudden change in height or size. The borders should be even. The shape should be symmetrical.


The ABCDEs are listed here:


  • A is for Asymmetry

Moles should be oval or round, not odd-shaped. One way to think of this is to look for a consistent shape. A doctor should see any mole that looks like a blotchy shape.

  • B is for Borders

The borders of any skin coloration should be clean and even. A suspicious border, for example, is one in which the raised mole sits on a ring of color underneath it, like a halo under the mole. The colored skin should end with the mole, not spill further than the mole’s borders.

  • C is for Color

Look out for moles that are multiple-colored or uneven in color. Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin cells are grouped in various colors – tan, brown, red, slightly yellow all in one bunch. The colors you want are uniform – a consistent brown, for example.

  • D is for Diameter

Any skin coloration larger than the erasure on the end of a pencil is suspicious. This is about a quarter of an inch. Larger moles should be checked out.

  • E is for Evolving

Evolving refers to change. A benign mole is a stable mole. Make an appointment with your doctor if you see a mole changing shape, height, or colors


If you think that you have early signs of skin cancer, you need to seek professional help and speak with one of the specialists at Pacific Medical Care.

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