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NYU Notes 25th Anniversary of ABCDE Melanoma Diagnosis Tool

Posted: January 12, 2010

2010 marks the 25th year anniversary of the development of the ABCDEs acronym developed by dermatologists at NYU Langone Medical Center that provide criteria for diagnosing melanoma.

One American dies every hour from melanoma, the deadliest of the major forms of skin cancer. If detected early, melanoma 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, chairman, The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology and director on Center of Excellence in Cancers of the Skin at NYU Langone Medical Center. “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 of 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 ABCDs 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.