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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Signs of Skin Cancer Are Too Often Ignored

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To encourage its use, Skidmore teaches patients how to do the skin self-exam. "The first thing I tell them is to get naked," Skidmore says. "If they have someone they're close to, they can have them help out; if not, you need a mirror on a wall and a hand-held mirror so you can look at your back and your buttocks and the backs of your legs."

So what exactly should you be looking for? To help you out, the American Cancer Society offers the following 'ABCD Rule' for signs of melanoma:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over, but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The area is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.

Skidmore tells patients to play "hide-the-mole" with a pencil eraser, and to be suspicious of any mole that isn't completely covered when you place the eraser over it.

"If the mole used to hide and doesn't hide anymore, that's a very sensitive indicator of change that should be looked at more closely," he says.

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