Symptoms of melanoma

Tell your doctor if you notice a change to a mole, freckle or a normal patch of skin.

Doctors use a checklist which explains some of the signs of melanoma to look out for. It's called the ABCDE list.

Some melanomas develop from existing moles. The rest grow on what was previously normal skin. So if you notice a new abnormal mole or one that seems to be growing quickly or changing, show it to your doctor

The earlier a melanoma is found, the easier it is to treat. So it's important to see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the following skin changes.

This video explains the importance of going to your GP if you notice any possible cancer symptoms. It lasts for 42 seconds.

Checking your moles - ABCDE

It's important to know what your skin normally looks like. This helps you notice any unusual changes.

For parts of your body that are hard to see, you can use a mirror. Or ask your partner or a friend to check the areas of your skin that you can't see.

The ABCDE checklist explains what signs to look for. See your doctor straight away if you are worried or have any of the following signs:

A - asymmetrical

This refers to the shape of the mole. 

Melanomas are likely to have an uneven shape. The two halves of the area may be different shapes (asymmetrical).  

Normal moles usually have a more even shape and the two halves are similar (symmetrical)

B - border

This refers to the edges of the mole.

Melanomas are more likely to have irregular edges (border) that might be blurred or jagged. 

Normal moles usually have a smooth, regular border.

C - colour

This refers to the colour of the mole.

Melanomas are often an uneven colour and contain more than one shade. The melanoma might have different shades of black, brown and pink.

Normal moles usually have an even colour. 

D - diameter

This refers to how wide the mole is.

Most melanomas are more than 6mm wide.

Normal moles are usually about the size of the end of a pencil or smaller.

E - evolving

Evolving means changing.

Melanomas might change in size, shape or colour. Or you might notice other changes such as a mole bleeding, itching or becoming crusty.

Normal moles usually stay the same size, shape, and colour.

Pictures of moles

Looking at photographs of abnormal moles and melanomas may help you to recognise what is not normal. Remember though, that not normal for you is what counts.

Where might you get a melanoma?

You can get a melanoma anywhere in the body. But they are more common in certain parts of the body. This differs for men and women.

Melanomas in men are most common on the back. In women, the most common site is the legs.

Melanoma of the eye

Rarely, melanoma can start in the eye.

You might be able to see a dark spot if it's growing in the coloured part of the eye (the iris).

But if melanoma is growing inside the eye, there is usually no outward sign. But you might have changes in your eyesight. This type of melanoma is most often diagnosed during a routine eye examination by an optician or eye specialist.

Should I see my doctor?

Go and see your GP if:

  • you have any of the ABCDE signs
  • a mole is itching or painful
  • a mole is bleeding or becoming crusty
  • a mole looks inflamed
  • you have an unusual mark or lump on your skin that lasts for a few weeks
  • you have a dark area or line under a nail that is not due to an injury 

The earlier a melanoma is picked up, the easier it is to treat and the more likely treatment is to be successful. So go to your GP as soon as possible.