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Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers

  • Posted: 01/11/2011

Symptoms of Melanoma

Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. Thinking of "ABCDE" can help you remember what to look for:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea (larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch).
  • Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.

In more advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. The skin on the surface may break down and look scraped. It may become hard or lumpy. The surface may ooze or bleed. Sometimes the melanoma is itchy, tender, or painful.

This photo shows an asymmetic melanoma with irregular and scalloped borders.
This photo shows an asymmetic melanoma with irregular and scalloped borders. The color varies from gray to brown to black. The melanoma is about 1.2 centimeters.
This photo shows a dysplastic nevus with an arrow pointing to a new black bump that was not there 18 months earlier.
This photo shows a dysplastic nevus with an arrow pointing to a new black bump that was not there 18 months earlier. The black bump is a melanoma that is about 3 millimeters.