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About melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is different from other skin cancers. It can grow very deep into the skin and spread to other organs.

Three types of skin cancers

Types of skin cancersBasal cell skin cancer
  • most common human malignancy
  • usually very curable by surgical excision
Squamous cell cancer
  • second most common and worrisome skin cancer
  • generally curable with surgery or other treatments
  • most worrisome of all skin cancers
  • can travel through bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body
  • can be lethal
  • can be curable with early detection

People at risk for developing melanoma include:

  • fair skin persons with blue eyes
  • personal or family history of melanoma
  • people with more than 50 moles
  • people who have had repeated UVA exposure

What can I do?

  1. Learn how to protect yourself from the sun
  2. Learn the ABCDE's of melanoma
  3. Take 5 minutes to check yourself monthly
  4. Report changes early

How can I protect myself from the sun and UV exposure?

  • Avoid the sun when it's at its highest (between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM)
  • Use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or greater
  • Apply at least every 2 hours while outside
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, clothing with UVA, UVB protection
  • Never attend tanning salons

The ABCDE's of melanoma

This is a tool to help. Sometimes moles will change into melanoma and this is why your moles need to be monitored. It is important to note that not all moles will become melanoma. Each letter stands for a characteristic within the melanoma. Melanoma may have some or all of these characteristics.

Each of the following pictures on the left are normal moles. The pictures on the right are examples of melanoma.

A is for Asymmetry

  • If you cut the normal mole in half on the left - one side equals the other side in shape. It is symmetrical. 
  • The melanoma mole tends to jut off in one direction. It is asymmetrical.

B is for Border Irregularity

  • The normal mole on the left has a regular border. 
  • The melanoma mole has a jagged irregular border.

C is for Colour

  • The normal mole on the left is one colour. 
  • The melanoma mole may have many colours within it, such as dark brown, black, red, blue and purple.

D is for Diameter

  • The normal mole on the left is usually less than 5 mm in diameter. 
  • The melanoma mole may be much larger.

E is for Evolving

This means change. If you notice a mole that is changing in any way - for example - in size, shape, colour, oozing, bleeding, itching please notify your health care professional as soon as possible.

Tips for checking yourself regularly

  1. Pick a specific date to check your moles every month that will be easy to remember
  2. For example, take 5 minutes on the 5th of every month
  3. Check yourself everywhere from head-to-toe
  4. Teach a friend the melanoma ABCDE's so they can help you check your back or learn to use 2 mirrors
  5. Refer to your Pigment Lesion Pamphlet

Call us!

If you notice any new or changing moles while doing your monthly mole check and you are a Sunnybrook patient, let us know promptly. We are here to help you!

Call 416-480-6100 ext. 5248

If you are not a Sunnybrook patient, please see your family doctor promptly.


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