The ABCD guide to checking skin cancer

Written by: Dr Raj Mallipeddi
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. Thankfully, with early detection and appropriate treatment, it can be cured in most cases.


The ABCD skin cancer guide

It is important to watch out for changes in moles or for the formation of new moles. The ABCD guide is helpful and stands for:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border becoming irregular
  • Colour changes especially uneven colour
  •  Diameter greater than 6mm

Other signs

Melanoma tends to appear as a new lesion more often than developing from a pre-existing mole. A new mole or one which is different to the rest of the surrounding moles should be scrutinised more carefully. Moles which become itchy or bleed may also need to be examined. It is also important to be aware that most skin cancers do not appear as “moles”. Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a pearly pink or red spot, a red scaly patch or an ulcer. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as a scaly or crusty area of skin or a lump with a red, inflamed base. They may feel sensitive to touch and bleed when rubbed. As we get older we develop scaly, rough patches predominantly areas exposed to the sun. These are known as actinic keratoses and they become more common with advancing age especially in fair skinned people. These occasionally develop into squamous cell carcinoma and so can also be considered to be pre-cancerous.

Fortunately, most skin lesions are harmless and we are more likely to develop benign lesions we with age. However, it is difficult for an untrained eye to tell the difference, so if you are concerned about skin cancer it is best to seek your GP’s opinion and if necessary refer to a dermatologist.

If in doubt get it checked out!

By Dr Raj Mallipeddi

Dr Raj Mallipeddi is an award-winning consultant dermatological surgeon based in London who specialises in skin cancer, cosmetic dermatology and surgical dermatology alongside Mohs surgery, laser surgery, and photodynamic surgery. He practices privately for HCA Sydney Street Outpatient Centre, Dermatological Surgery, Laser Unit at Guy's Hospital Cancer Centre, and Bupa Cromwell Hospital. He also works for the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Mallipeddi is well respected in the dermatology and skin cancer field, working in lead roles at top centres in the capital. He is the lead clinician for dermatological surgery and the laser unit at St John's Institute of Dermatology at Guy's Hospital Cancer Centre and was the lead consultant for skin cancer for his NHS trust, seeing referrals from all over the UK. Dr Mallipeddi studied at Imperial College in London where he was awarded an MBBS in 1997. During this time, he also completed an intercalated BSc (Hons) degree in psychology at University College London in 1994. Subsequently, he obtained a Doctor of Medicine higher research degree studying squamous cell carcinoma at King's College London from 2001 to 2003.

Dr Mallipeddi has been professionally recognised as well as by patients. He has been awarded the St John's Dermatological Society registrar prize, the Wooden Curette Award from the British Society for Dermatological Society and named by Marquis (American publisher of directories) as the Who's Who in Healthcare 2009-10. As well as being a highly-qualified professional, Dr Mallipeddi lectures nationally and internationally. He is also heavily involved in medical education as the national curriculum lead for Mohs and Advanced Dermatological Surgery and he has written the "practical procedures" chapter in the "ABC of Dermatology" book. 

He is also widely published, and a pioneer in his field for being one of the only UK doctors who has completed advanced training in Mohs micrographic surgery as certified by the American College of Mohs Surgery. He serves on numerous boards including chair of the UK Mohs micrographic service standards committee and was the past President of the British Society for Dermatological Surgery (2015-2017). Furthermore, he is past president of the St John's Dermatological Society (2021-2022). 

He was a member of the British Association of Dermatologists' (BAD) guideline committees for basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and photodynamic therapy and has helped to develop important national guidelines.

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