• Alternative Names

    Skin cancer - melanoma


    The primary symptom of any skin cancer is usually a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin. Any change in appearance of a pigmented skin sore over time is a warning sign. Also, watch for any bleeding from a skin growth.

    The ABCD system may help you remember features that might be symptoms of melanoma:

    • Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
    • Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges.
    • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
    • Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter -- about the size of a pencil eraser.

    The key to treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot of concern if you don't look carefully, so perform thorough self-examinations monthly, and schedule a formal skin exam with a dermatologist yearly.

    Signs and tests

    If you notice any suspicious skin markings, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

    Your health care provider will look at the appearance of the growth, sore, or lump. A biopsy may be used to confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy may involve removing a small area of a growth, or the entire growth.

    A procedure called sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy may be used for some people with melanoma to see if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

    Once melanoma has been diagnosed, CT scans or other types of x-ray tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread.