top of page

Skin Cancer and Melanoma Features

George Woodbury Jr. M.D. 12/21/2023


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 leads to early treatment. Let’s take a look at an important warning feature  – the “Ugly Duckling Mole” - that Dermatologists like myself have used to catch many Melanomas that might otherwise go unchecked.

So what’s an Atypical Mole?


We Dermatologists routinely look for the A, B, C, D, and E warning signs for Skin Cancer: rules of thumb for recognizing significant lesions or growths. And I’d like to add a sixth warning sign that’s allowed me to spot many Skin Cancers early: the “Ugly Duckling Mole” sign.

The photo below is of a Melanoma:

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.

The photo below is of a Melanoma:

But there is an important sixth warning sign: the “Ugly Duckling Mole,” which is a mole that by itself might look low risk, but when compared to a person’s other moles, it stands out. It shows the features of an Atypical Mole. It might be darker than a person’s other moles, or it might have a different shade of grey, or it might be more raised. I’ve caught many Melanomas over the years by simply looking for “Ugly Duckling Moles.”

And the youngest patient in my own Memphis Dermatology practice was only ten years old! Remember that the median age for Melanoma is 52. So we have to inspect young people as well as seniors. And everyone is at risk of Melanoma, not just redheads and people who burn in the sun.  Just yesterday, I diagnosed Basal Cell Skin Cancer in a woman in my office in her late 20s.


Remember that you’ve got to look for Skin Cancer to detect Skin Cancer. Getting a Skin Cancer Screening regularly – by both yourself and by a Dermatologist – really helps. To spot what might be 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 can occur on all parts of the body. There are different types of Skin Cancer, including Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Remember that the most common location for Melanoma in women is the upper leg, and for men, it’s the back, areas of the body that many of us do not routinely check.


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 – Dermatologic Surgeons like myself often try to ensure that the lesion is completely out – by doing what’s called a “re-excision.”

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.”

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

I have practiced as a Memphis Dermatologist these last 31 years with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, Cordova, TN (1-901-753-0168; 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.

George Woodbury Jr. M.D.

Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates PC

8143 Walnut Grove Road

Cordova TN 38018




Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page