Almost Three Decades Later, ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection Established at NYU Langone Medical Center Continues to Save Lives
Helpful Tool Remains Vital – Particularly for Skin Lesion Self-Examination
Nearly thirty years ago, dermatologists at NYU Langone Medical Center developed and later refined the “ABCDE” acronym that provides criteria for diagnosing melanoma. Three decades later, it remains a relevant way to detect skin lesions and prevent melanoma, the deadliest of the major forms of skin cancer.
As the nation acknowledges Melanoma Awareness Month this May, NYU Langone dermatologists remind everyone about the importance of early detection, which is the single greatest way to prevent melanoma, and detect possible lesions when they can be successfully treated.
"NYU Langone Medical Center is proud to have created a system which successfully diagnoses melanoma and save lives," said Seth J. Orlow MD, PhD, the Samuel Weinberg Professor of pediatric dermatology and chair of The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology. “The impact of the ABCDEs has been profound, creating a simple and quick guide for anyone to examine themselves. Few would argue that countless lives have been saved by the development and awareness of the ABCDEs—helping detect the most dangerous form of skin cancer while still curable with simple removal before the cancer has spread."
The ABCDEs for melanoma detection are:
- A is for Asymmetry where one-half of the mole is unlike the other.
- B is for Border where the mole is irregular, scalloped or poorly defined.
- C is for Color which varies from one area to another or has different shades of tan, brown, black and sometimes white, red or blue.
- D is for Diameter of a mole when it is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- E is for Evolving or changing in size, shape or color.
In 1985, Alfred Kopf MD, then a professor of dermatology and now professor emeritus, along with former NYU fellows Robert Friedman, MD, and Darrell Rigel, MD, both current NYU faculty, created the original ABCD guide: "Early Detection of Malignant Melanoma: The Role of Physician Examination and Self-Examination of the Skin," which was published in the CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Nearly twenty years later, David Polsky MD, PhD, the Alfred W. Kopf Professor of Dermatologic Oncology and director of the NYU Pigmented Lesion Clinic, along with Drs. Kopf, Friedman, Rigel and others, added the "E" to the ABCDs, which was later published in an article titled "Early Diagnosis of Cutaneous Melanoma: Revisiting the ABCD Criteria" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, updating the acronym to ABCDE.
"The original ABCD rule was very helpful in identifying early melanoma; however melanoma changes frequently, so we wanted the message to be expanded to the ABCDE rule so that the public would know that any lesion that significantly changes or is 'evolving' is a concerning lesion," said Dr. Polsky. "This includes new lesions that appear, especially in patients over 50 years of age."
According to experts, minimizing your risk for skin cancer and melanoma is critical. "Performing regular skin self-examinations using the ABCDE guide to check for warning signs of skin cancer, especially melanoma, is an important and easy way to detect suspicious lesions and spots that could be cancerous." says Jennifer Stein, MD, PhD, associate director of the Pigmented Lesion Service at NYU Langone Medical Center.
NYU Langone skin cancer specialists will present on numerous studies at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago May 30-June 3. To find out more about the conference, and to search for presentations featuring NYU physicians, visit the ASCO meeting web site.