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Melanomas are not usually painful. In fact, the majority of melanomas are asymptomatic. The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanomas also may appear as a new, black, or abnormal mole. Symptoms result from the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. It's important to remember that most people have moles, and almost all moles are benign.

The following are signs that a mole may be a melanoma:

Asymmetry —The shape of one half does not match the shape of the other half.

An Asymmetrical Mole


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Ragged edges —The edges are ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular, and the pigment may spread into surrounding skin.

A Mole with Ragged Edges


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Color variation or change in color —The color may be uneven with shades of black, brown, or tan, and possibly even white, gray, pink, red, or blue.

A Mole with Color Variation


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Change in size —The mole changes in size, usually growing larger. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (5 millimeters or 1/4 inch).

Change in texture —The mole may begin to have fine scales. In more advanced cases, a mole may become hard or lumpy. Oozing or bleeding from a mole may also be a sign that there is a problem.

Since not all melanomas follow the above rules above, make sure to let your doctor know about any changes or new areas on your skin that looks different to you. Other things to look out for include sore spots that do not get better over time, or itchy or tender areas.

References:

Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated April 3, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.

Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003120-pdf.pdf . Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.



Last reviewed June 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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