Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It can spread very quickly and become deadly. But the good news is, if it’s found early, there’s a higher chance of effective treatment and recovery. That’s why knowing what to look out for is essential.
The most obvious warning signs are changes to your skin or moles: how they look or how they feel. These changes aren’t generally accompanied by pain, so early warning signs can go unnoticed if you’re not vigilant about checking your skin regularly. In fact, recent studies in the US found that 56.3% of melanomas detected by American Dermatologists had not been noticed by the patient1.
So what do you need to look out for? Read on to find out.
The A.B.C.D.E. rule
The A.B.C.D.E. rule is a simple guide to recognising the early signs of superficial spreading melanoma. Look out for the following:
- Asymmetry – The shape of one half does not match the other.
- Border – The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- Colour – The colour is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
- Diameter – Size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter (the diameter of a pencil).
- Evolving – look for new moles or changes to any moles.
The E.F.G. rule
The E.F.G. rule is another guide that recognises a type of melanoma known as nodular melanoma. It can grow very quickly so early detection and treatment is vital. Be on the lookout for:
Elevated: Moles that are raised on the skin.
Firm: Moles that are firm to touch.
Growing: Moles that grow and change very rapidly.
The moles don’t need to be dark or have any other colour to them, but the key giveaway is that they are raised, often very symmetrical, are firm to touch, and most importantly are changing/growing progressively. In the early stages, this change might just be a sense of change rather than visible – perhaps the mole is itchy, or just feels funny.
This type of melanoma can affect anyone, but is generally much more common in men over 50. The frightening thing about nodular melanoma is that because they grow fast, they can go deep very quickly (within a few months), which is why they are so dangerous and need early diagnosis and removal.
Melanoma does not always fit the A.B.C.D.E. or E.F.G. rules described above. If you notice a mole or skin lesion that is...
- different from others (the 'Ugly Duckling')
- changing in shape, size or colour
- a new skin lesion, or
- itches or bleeds
... you should bring it to the attention of your doctor or MoleMap Melanographer immediately, accurately describing the symptoms and your reason for concern. Call us on 0800 665 362.