Around 11,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year in Canada1. Although serious, this type of skin cancer can be effectively treated if detected early. And the good news is that you can play a key role in the early detection of melanoma by keeping an eye on your moles.

Dr. Jeremy Cohen, Family doctor at ELNA Private Care, guides you through the ABCDE method, a simple tool for monitoring your skin and detecting early signs of melanoma.

Keep reading our blog post to learn more:

What is a melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from pigment cells in the skin called melanocytes. Melanocytes make melanin, which gives colour to certain parts of the skin, and can group together to the surface of the skin to form moles, also known as nevi. Unlike other types of skin cancer, melanoma can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, making treatment more difficult.

The main risk factors include excessive sun exposure, a family history of melanoma, and the presence of numerous moles or atypical nevi.

Monitoring changes in your moles can make all the difference. Learn to recognise the warning signs with the ABCDE method and contact a healthcare professional if you have a suspicious mole.

ABCDE self-examination method

The ABCDE method is a simple and effective mnemonic for monitoring moles and detecting early signs of melanoma. Here’s how to apply it.

A for Asymmetry

A normal mole is generally symmetrical. Imagine a line through the middle: the two halves should look the same. If your nevus is not symmetrical, this could be a sign of change to look out for.

B for Borders

The edges of a healthy mole are smooth and regular. If the edges become irregular, jagged or blurred, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist.

C for Colour

Healthy moles are often of a uniform colour. If you notice several shades of brown, black, or other colours such as red or blue, this is a sign of change that should be closely monitored by a health professional.

D for Diameter

Size matters too. Benign moles are often small. If a mole is larger than 6 mm in diameter, it’s worth having it checked, even though some melanomas can be smaller.

E for Evolution

Change is a key indicator. If a mole changes in size, shape or colour, or starts to itch or bleed, this is a warning sign. The rapid evolution of a mole requires medical attention.

Don’t forget to inspect hard-to-reach areas such as the back and nape of the neck, using a mirror or akins someone to help you.

ABCDE method for examining moles

When should you see a dermatologist for your moles?

Regular self-examination using the ABCDE method is a valuable first step that should be carried out regularly. If you have noticed any of the above changes in your moles, we recommend that you consult your family doctor or dermatologist for a thorough examination.

However, even if you have not detected any signs of a suspicious mole, it is still advisable to have an annual skin examination, especially if you have risk factors such as fair skin, a family history of melanoma, or if you have ever had severe sunburn.

How can melanoma be prevented?

In addition to self-examination and regular consultations with a dermatologist, it is advisable to take preventive measures to limit the appearance of melanomas and thus avoid the risk of developing skin cancer.

  • Use sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply a sufficient quantity of sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin, at least 15 minutes before going out. Sunscreen should be applied even on cloudy days and reapplied every two hours.
  • Limit sun exposure: Even with sunscreen, avoid the sun at peak times (10am to 4pm) and stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Cover up: Wear long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and long skirts to cover as much of your skin as possible, and don’t forget a long-brimmed hat for your face.
see a dermatologist to examine your moles

Consult a dermatologist in Montréal

Early diagnosis is your ally! Melanoma detected early can often be removed before it spreads, greatly increasing the chances of successful treatment. By consulting a family doctor or dermatologist, you are taking a proactive step for your health.

Family doctor: A doctor can carry out an initial examination and identify any abnormalities. He or she will give you advice on sun protection and decide whether a referral to a dermatologist is necessary. Book an appointment.

Dermatologist: A dermatologist can carry out an advanced examination of your skin and moles. If melanoma is suspected, he or she may suggest specific treatments, such as surgical excision, and carry out a histological analysis to rule out or confirm a cancerous risk. Book an appointment.

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ELNA Medical informs you and gives you the keys to staying proactive against melanoma. Take care of your skin and watch out for changes: your vigilance can make a big difference!

1 : Canadian Cancer Society – Melanoma skin cancer statistics