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Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

What are Possible Signs of Melanoma?

The following are the most common clinical warning signs of melanoma. However, each individual may experience different skin findings or symptoms. Signs and symptoms may include:

Because most melanoma cells produce melanin, melanoma tumors are often brown or black in color; however, they can also be flesh-colored, bluish, or pink in nature. Melanoma can also appear on the body as a “new” pigmented lesion, that is, not arising in a pre-existing mole. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body through the lymph system, or through the bloodstream. Like most cancers, melanoma is best treated when it is diagnosed early.

The symptoms of melanoma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician promptly for evaluation and diagnosis of any concerning skin lesions.

Distinguishing Benign Moles from Pigmented Lesion & Melanoma

To find melanoma early, when it is most treatable, it is important to examine your skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with your moles and other skin lesions, in order to better identify changes.

Certain types of moles (also called nevi) may be at higher risk for changing into malignant melanoma. Moles that are present at birth (congenital nevi, particularly when large in size), and atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), may have a greater chance of becoming malignant. However, the vast majority of melanomas do not arise from a pre-existing mole (common, congenital or dysplastic types), and so the mass removal of benign-appearing, stable nevi is not warranted. Recognizing changes in your moles, by following this ABCDE Chart, is helpful in detecting melanoma at its earlier, more curable stages. It is important to understand that “E” stands for an evolving lesion, that is, one that is different in appearance compared to other moles or changing in size, shape, or color, over time.

The clinical ABCD warning signs are:

Normal Mole / Melanoma Sign
A, B, C, D, E
Characteristic
A: Asymmetry When half of the mole does not match the other half
B: Border When the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular
C: Color When the color of the mole varies (multiple hues of brown, black, white, red or blue)
D: Diameter If the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil eraser (generally 5-6 mm in diameter)
E: Evolving A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color
Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute

Melanomas vary greatly in appearance. Some melanomas may show all of the ABCDE characteristics, while others may show few or even none of these clinical warning signs. The “ugly duckling” sign may also be a helpful way to detect melanoma in an earlier stage. This involves simply looking at the skin for a lesion that doesn't match the rest. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

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