There are nearly 132,000 people diagnosed with melanoma each year according to the World Health Organization. While it is the rarest form of skin cancer, it is also the most deadly. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of melanoma before it progresses significantly increases your chances of survival.
So what are some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for?
Melanoma begins in the top layer of our skin called the epidermis. It occurs when melanocyte cells behave abnormally, growing excessively and taking over surrounding tissues. Melanomas can develop from existing moles or skin growths, but, more commonly, they will start as a new growth.
In order to catch these growths early, it is important to preform regular skin checks to understand what’s normal for your body and to recognize any changes that may occur. Total body skin checks should be done once a month or at least every three months to ensure you don’t miss any new developments. Any new growths, changing or growing moles or any moles or lesions that itch, bleed or won’t heal are cause for concern.
A normal mole will have neat edges, a smooth or dome-like shape, be around ¼ inch (6 mm) in diameter and will stay the same shape, size or color over time.
Sometimes a mole will exhibit some of the warning signs of melanoma such as blurry edges or a diameter larger than 6 mm but it will be benign. This is called a dysplastic nevus or an irregular mole. People with multiple dysplastic nevi are often at greater risk for skin cancer, even if one particular mole is non-cancerous. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get any suspicious moles or marks checked out to be safe.
The ABCDE method
So you know what to pay attention to during your skin checks, the American Academy of Dermatology created the ABCDE method. This tool highlights all of the major warning signs of melanoma. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately to get your mole or growth checked out.
|A – Asymmetrical Shape
Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
|B – Border
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
|C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
|D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
|E – Evolution
The evolution of your mole(s) is the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.
Source: Melanoma Research Foundation
To highlight these symptoms more, take a look at the examples of skin cancer pictures.
SkinVision builds upon the ABCDE method
SkinVision uses a fractal imaging technology in order to spot moles that could be at risk for melanoma, based on signs that come from the ABCDE-method. The app was designed to be an added layer of security when examining suspicious moles, on top of your manual efforts. By looking at the dimensions of the skin lesions and surrounding skin tissue, SkinVision identifies which growth patterns are irregular and typically signs of melanoma. It gives you a risk rating that helps you identify moles to track over time for changes.
After you perform a skin check looking for the ABCDE warning signs, take a picture of any suspicious moles with the SkinVision app and get a better idea of their risk. The app can also connect you with a doctor to examine any moles that are worrisome.
Download SkinVision for free and make it a part of your skin cancer prevention routine.
Read in more detail about melanoma