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Skin Cancer - What Do You Know About The ABCDE Rule?

Written and reviewed by
Dr.Atul Taneja 90% (883ratings)
MD (AIIMS), Clinical Fellow,Skin Oncology(New England Medical Centre & Boston University,USA), Clinical Fellow.Photomedicine(Mass.Gen.Hospital,Harvard Medical School,USA), Clinical Fellow,Laser Surgery(Mass.Gen Hospital,Harvard Medical School,USA)
Dermatologist, Jamshedpur  •  27years experience
Skin Cancer - What Do You Know About The ABCDE Rule?

Skin cancers can arise from different layers of the skin. They occur due to the development of abnormal cells that have the ability to spread to other organs of the body and can be deadly. Malignant Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of cancers known to mankind.

ABCDE, when expanded, means Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving. The rule refers to new or changing signs that one may notice in moles to detect melanoma at an early stage and are clues or warning signs. This is further explained below.

Here are some facts related to skin cancers:

Skin Cancer is Not an Uncommon Disease:

Skin Cancer is a very common problem in Caucasians and is becoming increasingly common in darker races also. Skin cancers are the commonest form of cancers in America and with the increasing trend for skin cancers worldwide, any kind of abnormal growth on the skin must be evaluated by your dermatologist immediately.

There are 3 Main Types of Cancer:

There are many different types of skin cancers, but Basal Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma are the 3 main types of skin cancers.

Basal Cell Carcinoma appears as a small, smooth or waxy bump. Squamous Cell Carcinoma looks like a firm, scaly bump, which can be itchy and sometimes even bleed. Finally, Melanoma is like a normal mole but with some odd features. This is where the ABCDE rule becomes important.

Skin Cancers are Equally, if not more Dangerous in Persons with Darker Skin:

It is true that people with fair skin are more susceptible to sunburns and skin cancers. Still, it is worthwhile noting that skin cancers are more aggressive and tend to be more deadly in darker skinned people.

Prevent Skin Cancers by Sun-Precautions and Regular Skin Examinations:

The Sun’s Ultraviolet rays can affect certain skin cells and make them grow abnormally causing skin cancers. It is better not to expose yourself to the harsh midday sun for long periods of time. Using hats, umbrellas, sunscreens, and cloth to cover your skin can be of great help. Any abnormal growth, changing mole or bleeding ulcer which does not heal in a couple of weeks should be examined by a dermatologist without delay.

ABCDE Rule of Skin Cancer can be of Great Help:

Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolving.

This acronym refers to new or changing signs in moles to detect melanoma at an early stage and serve as clues or warning signs. You should consult your dermatologist immediately if you notice any of these signs in any of your moles:

  • Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half
  • Border: Edges are ragged, notched or blurred
  • Color: Pigmentation is not uniform
  • Diameter: Greater than 6mm
  • Evolving: Looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

Most skin cancers are easy to cure. The trick is to detect and catch them at an early stage. Keep an eye open for any new growth, bump or ulcer which doesn't heal in a couple of weeks. Any mole that is changing should immediately be examined by your dermatologist. Avoid the midday sun and practice sun precautions if you are an outdoor person. It is always best to get an annual, complete skin examination.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
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