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Weill Cornell Cancer Center

Signs, Symptoms, and Screening

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in the behavior or appearance of a mole or other skin lesion. The ABCDE rule aids the early detection of malignant melanomas:

  • Asymmetry: one half appears different in shape than the other half
  • Border: cancers may have irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined borders
  • Color: varies from one area to the other
  • Diameter: the lesion is larger than a pencil eraser (6 mm), though a cancer can be smaller
  • Evolving: the lesion changes over time in size, shape, and/or color

Normal Mole / Melanoma Sign

Characteristic

Asymmetry when half of the mole does not match the other half
Border when the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular

Color when the color of the mole varies throughout
Diameter if the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser
Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute

The development of pain, a change in size or color, bleeding, or other change in a mole or skin lesion is also a good reason to see a dermatologist to evaluate the lesion.

These signs and symptoms may also be associated with conditions other than cancer. Patients should see a doctor to have any suspicious lesions evaluated.

Cancer Screening

The Weill Cornell Cancer Center offers several skin cancer screening programs.

Full-body photography

To better map and track moles, doctors at the Weill Cornell Cancer Center use full-body photography to track changes in existing moles or the development of new pigmented lesions. Any new or changed lesions may be surgically removed and analyzed.

Monitoring of transplant patients

Patients who have received an organ transplant take immune-suppressing drugs that can make precancerous or cancerous skin changes behave more aggressively. Doctors at the Weill Cornell Cancer Center are forming a new unit to screen patients for skin lesions before transplant. Patients receive education before transplantation about ways to minimize their risk of developing skin cancers before the immune system becomes compromised.

Free skin cancer screening

In May, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's Department of Dermatology offers free skin cancer screenings at three New York City locations. The free screening is part of the Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Screening initiative sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology. For more information, contact the NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Prevention Program at 212-305-9074 or visit the Cancer Prevention website.

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