You may not have any symptoms in the early stages of melanoma. Or a melanoma may be sore, or it may itch or bleed.
Most melanomas start as a new skin growth on unmarked skin. The growth may change color, shape, or size. These types of changes are an early sign that the growth is melanoma. But melanoma can also develop in an existing mole or other mark on the skin. Or it may look like a bruise that isn't healing or show up as a brown or black streak under a fingernail or toenail.
Melanoma can grow
anywhere on the body. It most often occurs on the upper back in men and women and on
the legs in women. Less often, it can grow in other places, such as on the soles, palms, nail beds, or
mucous membranes that line body cavities such as the
mouth, the rectum, and the vagina.
On older people, the face is the most common
place for melanoma to grow. And in older men, the most common sites are the
neck, scalp, and ears.1
Signs of melanoma
The most important warning sign for
melanoma is any change in size,
shape, or color of a
mole or other skin growth, such as a birthmark. Watch
for changes that occur over a period of weeks to a month. The
ABCDE system tells you what changes to look for.
- A is for
asymmetry . One half of the mole or skin growth doesn't
match the other half.
- B is for
border irregularity . The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
is for color . The color is not the same throughout the mole.
- D is for
diameter . The mole or skin growth is larger than
size of a pencil eraser.
- E is for evolution . There is a change in the size, shape,
symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or
color of a mole.
Melanoma in an existing mole
Signs of melanoma in an existing mole include changes
- Elevation, such as thickening or raising of a
previously flat mole.
- Surface, such as scaling, erosion, oozing,
bleeding, or crusting.
- Surrounding skin, such as redness, swelling,
or small new patches of color around a larger lesion (satellite
- Sensation, such as itching, tingling,
burning, or pain.
- Consistency, such as softening or small pieces that break
other skin conditions (such as
basal cell cancer) have features similar to those of
Signs of melanoma that has spread
melanoma that has spread (metastatic melanoma) may be vague. They include swollen
lymph nodes, especially in the armpit or
groin, and a colorless lump or thickening under the