30 May 2017

Malignant mole ABC

Dr. José Gabriel Luque, LATAM Medical Director
Pan-American Life Insurance Group

Have you ever been at the beach or in the pool and noticed a strange mole or freckle on your body or someone else’s, and you’re not quite sure if it is normal, or if it is something that should be checked by a physician?

Over thirty years ago, during my tenure as oncological surgeon at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología de Colombia, I learned to identify suspicious moles with a very easy mnemonic technique.

Applying a very simple A-B-C-D-E to the mole, freckle or nevus, we are able to identify five conditions that distinguish the vast majority of malignant or pre-malignant moles:

  • Asymmetry
    Is it asymmetrical? If you draw a line through the middle, the two halves will not match.
  • Borders
    Are the edges uneven, scalloped or notched?
  • Color
    Are we able to identify two or more colors, shades between black and brown or a variety of shades in the middle? Benign moles are usually all one color.
  • Diameter
    Is the lesion over 6 mm, approximately the size or larger than the nail in your pinkie?
  • Elevation
    Does the lesion feel elevated if you apply gentle pressure to the area?

If you are able to identify some of the previous conditions, it is important to consider the F-G-H-I-J of warning signs. If any of them are present, it is important to contact a specialist immediately:

  • Frequent pain or tenderness
    Pain, itching or bleeding.
  • Ganglia or adenopathy of larger size
    Close to or at the bottom of the extremity where the lesion occurs. If found on the arms or legs, it’s necessary to look for them in the armpits or ingles respectively.
  • Halo of inflammation
    Formed around the lesion.
  • Intensity
    Rapid diameter, coloring or border changes.
  • Juxtaposition to the main lesion
    Appearance of small pigmented lesions.


About the author:
Surgeon Physician at the Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia, with training at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología also in Colombia. He also completed a specialty in Laparoscopic Surgery at Baptist Clinic in Miami, Florida, and has over 30 years of experience in the medical field. He currently serves as Regional Medical Director of Pan-American Life LATAM, where he oversees diverse strategies to streamline medical expenses and improve the quality of health services for our policyholders.

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