Symptoms of melanoma
About half of all melanomas start with a change in previously normal-looking skin. This usually looks like a dark area or an abnormal new mole. Other melanomas develop from a mole or freckle that you already have.
This video looks at the symptoms of melanoma and how it's diagnosed. Photographs are from the website of the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov).
To talk to someone about your questions and concerns about cancer, you can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00
The information in this video was correct as of 1 October 2013.
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It can be difficult to tell the difference between a melanoma and a normal mole. The following checklist (known as the ABCDE list) helps explain what to look for.
Photographs are from the website of the National Cancer Institute.
A – Asymmetry
Most melanomas are likely to be an irregular shape or asymmetrical (not symmetrical). Ordinary moles are usually symmetrical (both halves look the same).
B – Border
Melanomas are more likely to have a blurred or irregular border with jagged edges. Ordinary moles usually have a well-defined, clear, smooth-edged border.
C – Colour
Melanomas tend to be more than one colour. They may have different shades, such as brown mixed with a black, red, pink, white or blue tint. Normal moles tend to be one shade of brown.
D – Diameter (width)
Melanomas are usually more than 6mm wide. Normal moles are not usually bigger than the blunt end of a pencil.
E – Evolving (changing)
If you notice any changes to a mole, you should visit your GP. The change in shape can include the area becoming raised or dome-shaped.
Visit your doctor straight away if you have:
any of the ABCDE signs
any unusual marks on the skin that last for more than a few weeks
a mole that tingles or itches
crusting or bleeding of a mole
something growing under a nail or a new dark-coloured stripe along part of the nail.
'I noticed only a very slight change in the mole and the results showed it was a melanoma. They congratulated me on spotting it and I think myself very lucky. I think only by reading about the signs of cancer on websites like Macmillan’s, I was able to spot the very early signs in what looked like a fairly normal mole.’
A good time to check your skin is after a bath or shower. Make sure you have plenty of light. Use a full-length mirror and a small hand-held mirror for areas that are hard to see. This will get easier with time as you become more familiar with your skin and what your moles normally look like.
You can ask your partner, a relative or friend to look at your back, neck and parts of your skin that are hard to see. You could also take pictures of your moles so you can see if there are any changes over time. Checking for these signs is very important as melanoma can usually be cured if it’s found at an early stage.
There are more symptoms of advanced melanoma.