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Atypical Moles Melanoma Skin Cancer Memphis Dermatologist

by George Woodbury Jr. M.D., 10/15/2023

Skin Cancer, including Melanoma, takes the lives of upwards of 20,000 Americans every year. That’s about one person every 26 minutes. The good news is that early detection through skin cancer screening leads to early treatment. Let’s take a look at key features that a Board-certified Dermatologist like myself would use to detect Skin Cancer, leading to earlier management.

First, you’ve got to look for Skin Cancer to detect Skin Cancer. Dermatologists have long known that many Melanomas are first spotted by a concerned family member who inspects loved ones, through his or her own Skin Cancer Screening, detecting a changing growth or mole, then getting the patient to the prompt attention of a Dermatologist.

So to spot a suspicious growth early, you do need to get your family members pretty much completely undressed, at least once a month, for a home inspection because Skin Cancer, including Melanoma, can occur on all parts of the body. Don’t forget to inspect your family members’ sun-shielded areas.

Remember, though, that the most common location for Melanoma in women is the upper leg, and in men, it’s the back, so significant lesions can really occur on any part of the body.

Years ago, we Dermatologists taught that certain people are high risk for skin cancer: redheads, blonds, those who freckle easily, or those who love the sun or who have a history of severe sunburns. “Low-risk” people were those who routinely wear sunscreen, avoid the sun and tanning salon bulbs, or who tan easily. But really, everyone’s at risk of skin cancer. Many Skin Cancers occur in brunettes and in people who tan rather than burn. In fact, African Americans and Latinos tend to be diagnosed much later, leading to a higher fatality rate. So everyone could benefit from a Skin Cancer Screening at least once a month at home, and at least once a year with a Dermatologist!

Be aware that Skin Cancer affects more than just senior citizens. In fact, the median age for development of Melanoma is 52 years old. That means that half of the people developing Melanoma are younger than 52. The youngest patient whom I diagnosed with Melanoma in my own Memphis Dermatology practice over the last 31 years was a fifth grader: 10 years old! So don’t forget to inspect your kids. Data shows that several thousand people under the age of 20 develop Melanoma in the U.S. each year, including several hundred below the age of 12.

So you want to learn the A, B, C, D, and E warning signs for Skin Cancer, first described by Dr. Al Kopf and Dr. Daryl Riegel of New York University’s Department of Dermatology. These are rules of thumb for recognizing significant lesions or growths:

A stands for Asymmetry: one half of the lesion does not match the other half.

B stands for Border: a jagged border, perhaps like the coast of Maine rather than of Florida.

C stands for Color change: different hues of brown or black within the lesion, or one mole that’s a darker color than the person’s other moles.

D stands for an increasing Diameter of the lesion.

E stands for Evolving: if the lesion is changing, it’s best to bring it to the attention of a Dermatologist.

We know what action to take for suspicious moles or growths: if caught early, generally, a simple removal, or “excision” of the lesion under local anesthetic is curative. If the lesion turns out to be a precancerous lesion – such as a high-risk atypical mole – or a full-fledged skin cancer – a Dermatologic Surgeon like myself will often try to ensure that the lesion is completely out – by doing what’s called a “re-excision.”

For certain Skin Cancers on higher risk parts of the body, such as the face and neck, Dermatologic Surgeons like myself consider what’s called Mohs Surgery, also called Mohs Micrographic Surgery, a technique whereby the tissue specimen is processed right at the time of surgery in the Dermatologist’s office, to try to ensure that the borders of the specimen are free of cancer. This allows us to preserve normal surrounding tissue, hopefully allowing a smaller scar afterward.

For more helpful tips and photos of melanoma, go to the Skin Cancer Foundation website:

My own Memphis Dermatology practice sponsored a short movie on Melanoma about a beautiful young lady named Scarlet Akins, a 28-year-old woman studying to be a teacher at Ole Miss who discovered a changing spot on her knee when she was about two months from delivering her daughter. Check out her moving story on YouTube: “Understanding the Melanoma Crisis: Scarlet’s Story.”

I have practiced as a Memphis Dermatologist since 1993 with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, Cordova, TN (1-901-753-0168; Or you can find a Dermatologist closer to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology website,, then simply plugging your zip code into the “Find a Dermatologist” tab.

So see spot. See spot change. See a Dermatologist!

George Woodbury Jr. M.D.

Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates PC

8143 Walnut Grove Road

Cordova TN 38018




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