Signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer
How melanoma skin cancer looks can vary. Melanoma skin cancer often starts as an abnormal mole anywhere on the skin. A mole is a common non-cancerous growth. It is normally a small, round or oval spot that is usually brown, tan or pink. It may be raised or flat. Most people have a few moles.
A change in the colour, size or shape of a mole is usually the first sign of melanoma skin cancer. These changes can happen in a mole or spot that is already on your skin, or changes can appear as a new mole. Other health conditions can also look like melanoma skin cancer.
The ABCDE rule below can help you look for the common signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. See your doctor if you have any of these changes on your skin:
A is for asymmetry – One-half of a mole does not have the same shape as the other half.
B is for border – The edge of a mole is uneven (irregular). It can look jagged, notched or blurry. The colour may spread into the area around the mole.
C is for colour – The colour of a mole is not the same throughout. It could have shades of tan, brown and black. Sometimes areas of blue, grey, red, pink or white are also seen.
D is for diameter – The size of a mole is larger than 6 mm (1/4 inch) across, which is about the size of a pencil eraser.
E is for evolving – There is a change in the colour, size, shape or feel of the mole. The mole may become itchy or you may have a burning or tingling feeling.
Other signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer include:
- an area that doesn’t heal
- a mole or sore that oozes or bleeds
- broken skin with an open wound (ulceration)
Expert review and references
American Cancer Society. Melanoma Skin Cancer. 2015: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/.
American Society of Clinical Oncology . Melanoma . 2015 : https://www.cancer.net/.
Canadian Dermatology Association . Malignant Melanoma . https://dermatology.ca/.
Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation . Skin Cancer Prevention: Early Detection . https://www.canadianskincancerfoundation.com/.
National Cancer Institute . Melanoma Treatment (PDQ®) . 2015 : https://www.cancer.gov/.
National Cancer Institute . Common Moles, Dysplastic Nevi and Risk of Melanoma . 2011 : https://www.cancer.gov/.