How to tell if your moles may be cancerous: The Alphabet guide you need to know.

An easy alphabet analysis to keeping your skin safe.

By Emily Ruse,  Deputy Registered Manager

Many people have moles scattered across their body but, honestly, when was the last time you paid close attention to any of them?

Dr Fatima Ahmed of rtwskin, says it’s essential to keep a close eye on your skin markings to ensure that any changes can be noticed relatively quickly. Skin cancers are a very common type of cancer and can affect anyone, even young people. However, the vast majority of cases are not life-threatening and can be removed easily, as long as they’re detected early. That’s why everyone should keep a close eye on their skin and report any changes or suspicious markings to their dermatologist as soon as possible. We recommend self-examining the skin on your entire body from top to toe, once per month. The best way to do this is when coming out of the shower. Ask a friend of family member to check your back, scalp, ears and other areas you can’t easily see yourself. And, don’t forget to check between your toes!

Shockingly, approximately seven people die from skin cancer every day in the UK. Although rates are rising, many skin cancers can be recognised with the naked eye and – if spotted early – the chance of cure is very high.

As a general rule, when self-examining your moles, take note of any new moles or growths that appear and any existing moles that begin to grow or change significantly in any way. Lesions that change, itch or bleed should ring alarm bells.

Detection starts with self-examination, something everybody should be doing regularly regardless of their number of moles or sun-exposure history. The easiest way to do it is with the alphabet test.

As easy as ABC – the easiest way to remember is by using the alphabet rule. This lists a few of the signs of symptoms which may indicate a melanoma.


If you draw a line down the middle of the mole, do you find that the two halves of the mole differ in size or shape?


Are the edges of a mole irregular or blurred? The edges of early Melanoma are quite likely to irregular, crusty or notched.

Colour and Change:

Healthy moles are uniform in colour. Is the colour uneven, patchy or is the mole showing different shades? A variety of colours, especially black, white and/or blue is worrying.


Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than 6mm although they may be smaller.


When a mole begins to change in size, shape, colour or features or develops symptoms like itching, tenderness or bleeding, this points to danger.

Remember that melanoma doesn’t always fit the ABCDE rule. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, if you spot a new growth or you are worried about a lesion, have it checked by a professional. The dermatologist will examine the mole with a special magnifying lamp called a dermascope. With this tool, the mole’s pigment structure can be viewed in great detail, which provides information as to whether the mole is harmless or whether it may have to be removed.

Tips for staying safe in the sun:

· Wear protective clothing: If possible, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. Hats with a wide brim will not only cover your face but also protect other easy-to-forget spots like your ears and scalp.

· Make sunglasses your favourite accessory: Sunglasses shield your eyes from UV rays that can cause eye problems. Look for a pair that says it blocks 99% or 100% of UVB and UVA rays.

· Always apply SPF and apply it right: UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. To protect your skin, put sunscreen on every part of your body that will be exposed to the sun at least 15 minutes before going outside, even if it’s cloudy outside. When choosing sunscreen, pick one with a least SPF 30 and that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Remember to reapply every two hours and after activities such as swimming.


Book a no-obligation consultation to discuss mole check and other dermatology procedures with Dr Fatima Ahmed

Call 01892 22 22 22


Meet the Expert

Dr Fatima Ahmed is a speciality doctor in dermatology and aesthetics, with special interests in acne, mole and skin lesion diagnosis.  With medical qualifications from Pakistan, Canada, the UK and USA, she achieved academic distinction at Cardiff University and received the Chancellor International Scholarship award at the University of Hertfordshire.  She has worked in South Asia, the Middle East and the UK.

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