Melanoma Miracles Foundation
Melanoma Education and Warrior Support!

ABC's and Prevention


A diagnosis of melanoma is often made during a routine medical checkup, or when a person finds a suspicious mole and goes to the doctor to have it checked. The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. Moles that develop into melanoma tend to look different from ordinary moles. A good way to remember what to look for is "ABCDE" - Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolution.

Melanoma can appear suddenly—as a new mole—or it can grow slowly, in or near an existing mole. Get to know the pattern of moles, spots, freckles, and other marks on your skin so you can notice any changes. The best way to find changes in these moles and markings is by doing regular skin self-examinations. If you notice any of the following on your skin, see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • A growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, red, pink, or multicolored
  • A mole that changes in color or in texture, takes on an uneven shape, gets larger, or is bigger than a pencil eraser
  • A spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, fade, or bleed
  • An open sore that lasts for more than 4 weeks, or heals and then reopens
  • A scaly or crusty bump that is dry, rough, and pointed (sticks out like a horn) and may sometimes cause a pricking or tender feeling in the skin

It is important to find melanoma as early as possible. The American Cancer Society recommends a skin examination during a routine cancer-related check-up in all adults age 20 years and older. During this skin cancer check-up or "screening," your doctor will probably discuss your medical history and inspect your skin from head to toe—even areas that don't get any sun. Your doctor will record the location, size, and color of any moles. If a mole looks unusual, he or she may arrange for a biopsy.

Ordinary Moles
Both sides of the mole look the same
One side of mole does not match the other (asymmetric)
Regular, defined borders
Ragged or irregular borders
Same color throughout
Uneven coloring
Measures less than 1⁄4 inch across (6 mm, the size of a pencil eraser)
Measures more than 1⁄4 inch across
Stays the same size, shape, and color
Changes in shape, size, or color


It is estimated that 80% of melanomas are due to ultraviolet light damage to the skin. Avoidance of excessive sunlight on the skin, particularly sunburn is the effective way to prevent all skin cancer including melanoma. Sense in the sun includes:

  • staying out of the sun in the middle of the day
  • wearing a hat
  • walking on the shady side of the street where possible
  • sitting under beach umbrellas or trees
  • when out-of-doors, and wearing loose fitting clothing with longer sleeves and legs

Sunscreens should be used as additional protection for the skin and are very important when sunlight intensity is high, ie at the beach, in the middle of the day, and during sporting events requiring a long time exposed to the sun. A factor 30 waterproof sunscreen is best and it should be reapplied every two hours.

Children and teenagers are more at risk from sunlight damage than older people. As we get older our skin thickens and is more resistant to sunlight damage. It is particularly important for parents to ensure that young children are well protected when playing in the sunlight.

                    Melanoma Miracles Foundation
                    (816) 674-4316

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