The ABC’s of Detecting Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the most common of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 3.3 million people are diagnosed with it each year. Anyone can get it, too, no matter what your skin color.

So how do you know if you could have melanoma? According to the ACS, the most important warning sign is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape or color, or one that looks different from all of the others. The “ABCDE” rule is another guide:

A is for Asymmetry: The two halves of a mole or birthmark don’t match.

B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.

C is for Color: The color isn’t the same all over; it may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.

D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than about ¼ inch—the size of a pencil eraser (although melanomas can be smaller).

E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.

You can also hear what others have to say about protecting yourself from skin cancer. GuidanceResources Online®, the Member Assistance Program’s website, has a podcast on Preventing Skin Cancer. In it, a man and a woman talk about how they’ve learned to protect their skin from the sun over the years. To get started, visit and look under the “Physical Health” wellness topic.