What Does Melanoma
Look Like?

How Healthcare Professionals Identify Melanoma

Understanding what to look for plays an important role in the diagnosis of melanoma. Though many moles are harmless, it is critical to notice changes in their size, shape, or color. In addition, a key warning sign is a new spot or a spot that looks different from other spots on your skin. These can all be signs of melanoma and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Signs of a Possible Melanoma

Understanding what to look for plays an important role in identifying a melanoma early. Although melanomas often resemble moles, only a small number start as moles. Melanomas are usually black or brown but can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue, or white. Another key warning sign is a new spot or an existing spot that looks different from other spots on your skin.

According to the American Cancer Society, the ABCDE criteria can also be very helpful in identifying a skin spot that should prompt a consultation with your healthcare professional:

Alert your provider if you have any of the following:

  • A mole that exhibits any of the ABCDEs
  • A mole or dark spot that changes in color and appearance 
  • A mole that “stands out” or looks different from the others 
  • Appearance of one or more new moles (especially after age 40)
  • A mole that grows fast and is raised from the skin
  • A mole that has a scaly pink patch
  • A non-healing sore or a sore that keeps coming back
  • A brown or black streak under a nail 
  • A shiny pink bump

Regular skin self-examinations should be part of your routine health care. Here is a guide to performing regular skin self-examinations. They are easy and may change your life.

Face the mirror

Check your face, ears, neck, chest, and stomach. Women will need to lift their breasts to check the skin underneath.

Check your underarm areas, both sides of your arms, the tops and palms of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your fingernails.

Sit down

Checking one leg at a time, check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, in between your toes, and under your toenails. Use a hand mirror to look at the bottoms of your feet, your calves, and the backs of your thighs.

Stand up

Use the hand mirror to check your buttocks, genital area, lower and upper back, and the back of your neck and ears. Or it may be easier to look at your back in the wall mirror using a hand mirror.

Use a comb or hair dryer to part your hair so that you can check your scalp.

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Can Predict the Risk of Your Melanoma Recurring or Spreading


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What’s Next?

How is Melanoma Diagnosed?

How Do You Get a
DecisionDx®-Melanoma Test?