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Melanoma and your moles: Know what's new

Do you know how to spot melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer? Many people have heard of the ABCDE rule, which is to look for these kinds of changes in a mole:  

  • Asymmetry – The shape of one half of the mole looks different than the other half
  • Border – The borders or edge of the mole look ragged or blurred
  • Color – The mole has uneven coloring, with shades of black, brown, gray or other colors.
  • Diameter – The size of the mole is greater than 4 mm or ¼ inch
  • Evolving – The mole is changing in size, shape or color, or there's a new mole.  

It's especially important to pay attention to new moles.  

A recent review of published research on melanoma has confirmed what many skin doctors and cancer specialists already knew: Most melanomas (an estimated 70 percent) start as a brand new lesion, not in an existing mole.  

That means you really need to know your own skin. All adults should get in the habit of doing a monthly skin check so they know where their moles are and what looks normal. That makes it much easier to notice a new or changing mole.   

If you notice a new pigmented lesion (even if it doesn't have the characteristics described above) or a mole that's changed, you should see your doctor about it. Don't wait until your next annual physical to bring it up to your doctor—make an appointment soon.  

If you are at a higher risk for melanoma, talk to your doctor about how best to monitor your skin. Risk factors include: 

  • A personal or family history of melanoma
  • Fair skin
  • Blue eyes
  • History of sunburns
  • Having a large number of moles (more than 50)

 Reduce your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers by protecting your skin from the sun: 

  • Wear a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen every day.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and other sun-protective clothing.
  • Seek shade when outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning and tanning beds.


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