Individuals should examine their skin head-to-toe once a month, looking for any suspicious spots, bumps or lesions. It’s important to tell a physician about any new moles or growths, and any changes in the skin. Dermatologists have developed the following criteria to help their patients identify melanoma.

The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
A—asymmetry. A melanoma usually has an uneven appearance, with one side markedly different from the other.
B—border. The edges of this growth may be scalloped or notched.
C—color. A melanoma may be several different colors, combining brown, black, or tan, or red. It may also turn red, black or some other color.
D—diameter. A melanoma is generally the size of a pencil eraser, measuring ¼ inch across. Early melanomas may be smaller.
E—evolving. Any change in the nature of the lesion—from itching to crusting and bleeding—should be reported to a physician.

The Ugly Duckling
Another warning sign is the discovery of a mole or spot that is different from all the others. If a mole appears markedly larger and darker than its neighbors, it is considered an “ugly duckling” or outlier, and should be reported to a physician. The same is true if a small red mole appears in a field of large dark moles. If an individual has few or no other moles, any new or unusual lesion should be considered suspicious.