Symptoms of Melanoma
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Melanomas are not usually painful. The first sign is often a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanomas can also appear as a new, black, or abnormal mole. Keep in mind that most people have moles and almost all moles are harmless. Report any changes that you see to your doctor.
Changes in Existing Moles
Spotting a mole that seems out of the ordinary may be the first warning sign of melanoma. The ABCDE rule highlights what a suspicious mole can look like:
A normal mole has a even shape all around. An asymmetrical mole has 2 halves that do not look the same. When you look at it, one side looks smooth and the other side looks jagged.
The mole has a jagged, uneven edge all the way around.
Moles on most people are brown and evenly colored. Some can also be tan and black. Changes may be seen with different shades of those colors. At times, you may notice white, gray, pink, or red mixed in. Focus on the changes and uneveness of the coloring.
Most moles are ¼ inch (6.8 millimeters) or less in size. Look for moles that are larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil. Melanoma can happen in smaller moles, but they tend to grow larger.
Any mole that changes color, shape, or size should be check out. As the disease progresses, they can become hard or lumpy.
Other Skin Changes
Not all melanomas follow the ABCDE rule. Other signs to be look for are:
Later Stage Symptoms
Problems can appear anywhere in the body as melanoma grows and spreads. The problems will depend on where in the body it is growing. Common symptoms may include:
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Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma. Updated March 26, 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.
Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/melanoma. Updated March 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.
Melanoma: Signs and symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma#symptoms. Accessed May 8, 2019.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2019.
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/8/2019
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