If you have any of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a specialist, such as a dermatologist, dermatology PA-C (certified physician assistant) or nurse practitioner.
The most important warning signs for melanoma are:
- a new spot on the skin
- a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color. See the ABCDE guide
- a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. See the ugly duckling guide
- The ABCs of melanoma: Watch the video
Other warning signs are:
- A sore that does not heal
- Color spreading from the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of a spot
- Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule
Some melanomas do not fit these descriptions. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between melanoma and an ordinary mole, even for doctors. Be sure to point out any suspicious mole, any new spots or other changes to your skin.
What does a normal mole look like?
Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. They are usually smaller than the width of a pencil eraser.
A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.
Once you have a mole, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some may even fade away over time. Any changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, or color – may mean a melanoma is developing.