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Published on August 24, 2022

Spot Checking: The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

woman with freckles and wavy hair

By Brittnie Eakle, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer

From freckles to moles to age spots, pigmented marks on your body are common and are usually no cause for concern. However, our skin can evolve over time, so it's important to perform periodic spot exams to record any changes.

Depending on your skin type, the frequency of your spot exams can vary. If you are someone who has a lot of spots, we recommend doing regular skin checks at home to look for changes in your skin.

Recording Your Spots

When performing a skin check, you want to make sure you are examining every inch, including your scalp and under your fingernails and toenails.

Step 1: Examine your body front and back in a mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.

Step 2: Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, underarms, and palms.

Step 3: Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes and the soles of your feet.

Step 4: Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part your hair for a closer look your scalp.

Once you've examined your body, record any notable spots so you can see they have changed or evolved.

The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

When it comes to detecting skin cancer, particularly melanoma, there is an easy acronym to help remember what to look out for – this is known as the ABCDEs of melanoma.

A = Asymmetry

If you were to split your spot in half, does each half look the same or is one unlike the other?

B = Border

Does your spot have an irregular, rigid or undefined border?

C = Color

Does your spot have varying colors going from one area to the next? Look out for shades of tan, brown or black as well as areas of white, red or blue.

D = Diameter

The size of your spot is important to note. Usually, melanoma is at least the size of a pencil eraser (6mm).

E = Evolution

Finally, check to see how your spot has evolved since your last spot check. Do you notice a difference in shape, color or size?

Download a printable infographic on spot checking.

If you find a new spot or notice a change in an existing spot, don't panic! Most spots are benign, but it's best to make an appointment with your primary care doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.

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