Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in your skin’s melanin cells, which are responsible for your skin’s pigment.

“Melanoma can start on the skin, in the eye, your intestines or any other areas of your body with pigmented tissues,” says Avni Jain, MD, a primary care physician with Adventist Medical Group.

Melanoma can metastasize so it is extremely important to talk to the doctor right away if you think a mole on your body is changing in color, shape or size or if there is a new mole.

“Formally diagnosing melanoma cases involves removing the tissue and checking it for cancer cells,” says Dr. Jain.

Dr. Jain also suggests using the “ABCDE” method to remember what to look for when detecting melanoma:

ABCDE Method

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter: The affected area usually gets larger over time. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea.
  • Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

Sun and Skin Safety Tips

  • Wear Sunscreen. Use SPF of at least 30.
  • Wear Protective Clothing.
  • Avoid Peak Rays Seek shade during the mid-day sun, when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Don’t Use Tanning Beds. Indoor tanning has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by up to 75%.
  • Protect Children. Just one bad sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles your child’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Sources: NIH. National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Foundation. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only.  For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.