The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

ID News

The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Time to get ready for that summer sun and the sunburns that can come along with it!

Although the sunshine has many benefits, like a healthy dose of Vitamin D, we still need to remember to practice safe sun habits. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and Melanoma is now the most common cancer among people 25-29 years old. In fact, one in five people will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. Sun exposure, blistering sunburns, tanning bed use, fair skin, lack of sunscreen use, and a positive family history are all factors that can contribute to the likelihood of developing skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early enough.

The current recommendation is to check your skin monthly for any new or changing moles or lesions, and to have a dermatologist perform a full skin exam yearly. In some cases, your doctor may recommend increasing the frequency of these exams.

Below, we have outlined the ABCDEs of a self-screening skin cancer check. If you notice any of these factors, schedule an appointment to see a dermatologist immediately.




  • A is for Asymmetry:

    Check existing moles for symmetry. If one side is unlike the other, consult with your dermatologist.

  • B is for Borders:

    The borders of a benign mole tend to be smooth. Early signs of melanoma can include uneven or scalloped edges.

  • C is for Color:

    Having a variety of colors – including tan, black, red, white, and blue – in a single mole can be a warning sign.

  • D is for Diameter:

    Lesions larger than 6mm—the size of a pencil eraser—should be examined. Cancerous moles can start small and grow over time, so monitoring changes in size is important.

  • E is for Evolving:

    If your mole starts to change in color, size, shape, or any other characteristic, please consult with your dermatologist. This includes lesions that itch, bleed, or are not healing.


Your dermatologist may recommend performing a biopsy on a suspicious area during your full skin screening. A biopsy will reveal any cancerous or abnormal cells, and will help your dermatologist determine if any more intervention is necessary. In cases where a lesion in not immediately worrisome, photo documentation helps monitor changes over time.


In the meantime, practice safe sun habits:

  • Stay in the shade, especially between 10am and 2pm
  • Don’t let yourself burn
  • Avoid tanning booths
  • Cover up with clothing
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ (use 2 tablespoons to cover your whole body and reapply every two hours)

Prevention and early detection are crucial, so wear your sunscreen, practice sun-safety, and schedule your annual exam!


Island Dermatology is here to fulfill your comprehensive skin care needs. Please call your insurance to verify your eligibility. Patients are responsible for copays and unmet deductibles.