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Moles and Skin Cancer - ABCDE Warning Signs

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I was scratching an itch on my back and it started to bleed a little. My husband said that I had scratched a tiny mole on my back. I know it sounds silly, but I don't remember if I had a mole on my back at that location, and my husband couldn't recall either, but then he wouldn't be able to detail the locations of any of the other moles on my back. Could this mole be skin cancer?


Mole maladay

Dear Mole malady,

Melanoma is a malignant skin tumor involving the skin cell pigment producing melanin. Moles can resemble malignant melanomas that are the most dangerous type of the skin cancers and can spread rapidly.

One feature of melanomas is easy injury with bleeding, however there are other characteristics that could indicate melanoma. The good news is that if caught early enough and treated, melanoma is curable.

Many people have moles, and most moles are not cancerous and do not cause a problem. A mole that exhibits any of the characteristics outlined below should be evaluated immediately by your primary physician or a dermatologist.

The basic ABCDE warning signs to determine whether a mole is a melanoma are as follows (American Academy of Dermatology, 2009):


A. Asymmetry: one half unlike the other half

B. Border Irregularity: irregular, scalloped, poorly defined

C. Color: varied from one area to another, shades of tan and brown, black; Sometimes white, red or blue

D. Diameter: greater than 6mm, but can be smaller

E. Evolving: looks different from the rest or changing in size, shape, color

In addition, there are other features of melanoma such as surface changes (bleeding, oozing, scaliness) or signs of itchiness, pain, or tenderness.

After examining the mole, if your doctor thinks the mole is a melanoma, then a biopsy will be performed for further analysis.