Melanoma can appear on normal skin, or it may develop around an existing mole. If the melanoma is detected early, before it has the chance to spread, it is much more likely to be cured. A new spot on the skin that has changed in size, shape, or color is a major warning sign for melanoma.

Referring to the ABCDE rule can be a useful guide for recognizing symptoms.

  • Asymmetry: one half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other half.
  • Borders: irregular, ragged, or blurred edges of a mole.
  • Color: irregular color, ranging from shades of black, brown, or tan (sometimes pink, white, red, or blue) within one sore.
  • Diameter: the spot is typically (not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter—the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: this is a new addition to the former ABCD list; it acknowledges that if a mole changes—in any way—this is good cause to see your doctor. (This is the latest addition to the standard list).

Self-Examinations

Take control of your health. Whether you are a person who is at a high risk for melanoma or not, health experts recommend taking a proactive approach by performing self-exams to check for any skin changes. Check regularly, and alert your doctor if you see anything that looks suspicious. Remember—you know your body best!

Helpful Tips:

  • Remember to check your scalp, and along the hairline.
  • Don’t be shy: if you’re examining a hard-to-see area, ask a partner or friend to help.
  • Write down the size, location, and appearance of all moles and birthmarks. 
  • You can refer to this next time to see if there have been any changes.

Keep a Record:

  • Write down the size, location, and appearance of all moles and birthmarks.
  • You can refer to this next time to see if there have been any changes.