Skin cancer (melanoma) : Symptoms
The first sign of a melanoma is often a new mole or a change in the appearance of an existing mole.
Normal moles are generally round or oval, with a smooth edge, and usually no bigger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter.
But size isn't a sure sign of melanoma. A healthy mole can be larger than 6mm in diameter, and a cancerous mole can be smaller than this.
See your GP as soon as possible if you notice changes in a mole, freckle or patch of skin, particularly if the changes happen over a few weeks or months.
Signs to look out for include a mole that's:
- getting bigger
- changing shape
- changing colour
- bleeding or becoming crusty
- itchy or sore
The ABCDE checklist should help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma:
- Asymmetrical – melanomas have 2 very different halves and are an irregular shape
- Border – melanomas have a notched or ragged border
- Colours – melanomas will be a mix of 2 or more colours
- Diameter – most melanomas are larger than 6mm (1/4 inch) in diameter
- Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma
Melanomas can appear anywhere on your body, but they most commonly appear on the back in men and on the legs in women.
They can also develop underneath a nail, on the sole of the foot, in the mouth or in the genital areas, but these types of melanoma are rare.