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Our highly trained specialists are available 24/7 via phone and on weekdays can assist through video calls and online chat. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with essential services and resources at every step of their cancer journey. Ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
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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. Moles are generally less than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch) across (about the width of a pencil eraser). Some moles can be present at birth, but most appear during childhood or young adulthood. New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.
Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some moles may eventually fade away.
Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it’s important to recognize changes in a mole – such as its size, shape, color, or texture – that can suggest a melanoma may be developing.
Possible signs and symptoms of melanoma
The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that is changing in size, shape, or color.
Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin (known as the ugly duckling sign).
If you have one of these warning signs, have your skin checked by a doctor.
The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Some melanomas don’t fit these rules. It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on your skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Other warning signs are:
A sore that doesn’t heal
Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump
Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between melanoma and an ordinary mole, even for doctors, so it’s important to show your doctor any mole that you are unsure of.
Remember, too, that a small portion of melanomas start in places other than the skin, such as under a fingernail or toenail, inside the mouth, or even in the colored part of the eye (iris). These might look different from melanomas on the skin. For example, a melanoma under a nail might appear as a dark line (streak) in the nail, while a melanoma in the eye might appear as a dark spot in the colored part of the eye. It’s important to show a doctor anything that concerns you in these areas as well.