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ABCDs of Skin Cancer Warning Signs

ABCDs of Skin Cancer Warning Signs

Q: What are the warning signs of skin cancer?

A: There are several different types of skin cancer, and each can present in a different way.

In general, for non-melanoma skin cancers, be particularly suspicious of any new skin lesions or irritation that persist for longer than a month.

The warning signs for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer can be summarized with the ABCD rule.

A is for ASYMMETRY: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
C is for COLOR: The color is not the same all over and 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 6 millimeters across (about 1/4 inch–the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

Other warning signs are:

1. A sore that does not heal.
2. Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin.
3. Redness or a new swelling beyond the border.
4. Change in sensation–itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
5. Change in the surface of a mole–scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule.
6. A mole that looks very different from your other moles.

Everyone should have a health care professional perform a full-body skin survey once a year.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


+ add your own
3:25PM PST on Jan 26, 2014


5:30AM PST on Jan 11, 2014


3:46AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

Know when to stop even sunbathing

9:01AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Important info. Thanks for sharing!

5:35PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

a very important post, keep sharing, thanks!

12:39PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Thank you. This is a scary type of cancer .

8:39PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

Thank You!

2:48PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

I'm very fair skinned and really glad you wrote this article thanks

12:41PM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Melanoma can kill you. This article has good information and reminds us what to watch for. Thank you!

8:13AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Very helpful, thank you.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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