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 a leading London dermatologist, dedicated to the latest treatments in skin cancer, Mohs micrographic surgery, mole removal, laser surgery and cosmetic dermatology. He is Consultant Dermatologist and Dermatological Surgeon at St John's, the Clinical Lead for skin cancer at St John's Institute of Dermatology, as well as Lead Clinician at the Laser Unit at St John's. 

He lectures nationally and internationally, is 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 is immediate past President of the British Society for Dermatological Surgery.

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