Over 7000 people are expected to die from melanoma in the U.S. this year. Although not the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma is dangerous because it can spread and metastasize. Detecting melanoma early makes it far easier to treat and less likely to spread. An easy way to check for melanoma is using the “ABCDE” method.

What Is the ABCDE Method?

This method uses five easy guidelines that allows you to check if you might have melanoma. These guidelines are summarized with the “ABCDE” abbreviation. Let’s look at each of the five guidelines.


A typical mole has a symmetric shape, usually round or oval. With a mole that’s turned into a melanoma, the shape on one side will not match the other. You may have had an existing mole for years that was round and symmetrical. Then, you notice that it’s become asymmetrical, with one or both sides changing. That’s a sign your doctor needs to take a look.


The edge of a mole or birthmark is normally well-defined and smooth. When an area starts to become cancerous, the edges will start to change. They can become irregular, ragged, or notched. They can also fade into the surrounding skin color with no defined edge.


The color of a normal mole or freckle is consistent across the surface. When the color becomes irregular, dark, or blotchy, it’s a sign the area may be becoming cancerous. A melanoma can have shades of black, brown, and grey in various combinations.


When a mole or mark starts to turn cancerous, its diameter will change. It will start growing in different directions, expanding from its original shape and size. If you have a mole that is larger than a pencil eraser (about 0.24 inches or 6 mm), it should be examined promptly


If a mole starts to change shape, color, or diameter over a period of weeks or months, something is happening and it needs to examined by a doctor.

Assess each guideline against any area of your skin that you suspect might be a melanoma. If it meets one or more of these guidelines, it’s time to see your doctor for an exam. It is better to have your suspicions proven wrong, than to wait and find out you have melanoma that’s spread beyond its original location. If you go to the doctor with suspicions and face misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis you’ll want to consult a medical malpractice lawyer. Time with your family and health are things that cannot be replaced. Make sure you are vigilant to your own health and that you use the protections and skincare routines to keep you healthy this summer season.