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Symptoms of Melanoma

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—The color is 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 mm or 1/4 in).

Change in texture—The mole may begin to have fine scales. In more advanced cases, a mole may become hard or lumpy.

Itching—The mole may start to itch. In more advanced cases, it may ooze or bleed.

References:

American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp .

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ .



Last reviewed July 2008 by Ross Zeltser, MD, FAAD

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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