Melanoma: Symptoms

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

The first symptom of melanoma is often a change in a mole, or the appearance of a new mole that has ABCD characteristics. These ABCD rules can help you tell a normal mole from cancer. The ABCDE rules are:

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.

  • Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are ragged or irregular.

  • Color. The mole has different colors in it. It may be tan, brown, black, red, or other colors. Or it may have areas that appear to have lost color.

  • Diameter. The mole is bigger than 6 millimeters across, about the size of a pencil eraser. But some melanomas can be smaller.

  • Evolving. A mole changes in size, shape, or color.

Normal mole / melanoma

Sign

Characteristic

Asymmetry

When half of the mole does not match the other half

Border

When the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular

Color

When the color of the mole varies throughout

Diameter

If the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser

Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute

Other signs and symptoms that may be melanoma include:

  • A mole that itches or is sore.

  • A mole that oozes, bleeds, or becomes crusty.

  • A mole that looks different from your other moles.

  • A sore that doesn't heal.

  • A mole or sore becomes red or swells at its edges or beyond.

Get to know your moles

Become familiar with the way your moles look so you will know if they’re changing. Take note of any new moles that appear on your skin.

When to see your health care provider 

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your health care provider if you have these symptoms. Only a health care provider can tell if you have cancer.