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Melanoma Symptoms and Detection

Posted on 08 May 2015

melanoma detection

It is so vital to catch melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, early that physicians have developed the following two strategies for early recognition of the disease. Catching melanoma symptoms early can be the difference between life and death.

In most cases, melanoma is easy to self-detect at an early stage while it is curable by simple surgical excision. But left untreated, the cancer cells can spread to other organs and tissues, such as lymph nodes and bone,and often causes death. This is why it’s so important to self check every month and see a dermatologist immediately if you find anything suspicious.

Here are the two detection methods:


This is the standard in early melanoma detection. Melanoma often manifests some or all of the ABCDE features, namely:

A = Asymmetry

One half is unlike the other half.
If you draw a line through a malignant mole, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.

B = Border

An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

C = Color

Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

D = Diameter

Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E = Evolving

A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.


In 1998, the ugly duckling concept was introduced 2. This is the observation that moles in the same individual tend to resemble one another, and that invasive melanoma often deviates from this pattern.

The premise underlying the ugly duckling sign is that the patient's "normal" moles resemble each other, like siblings.

melamona detection

Here are a few examples:

  • A: The mole is larger and darker than the surrounding moles
  • B: Conversely, the mole is small and red in the background of multiple dark moles.
  • C: If there are few or no other moles, a changing lesion should be considered suspicious.

With regular self checks by yourself or a partner, melanoma symptoms can be detected early and can be livesaving!

Additional Resources:
SPOTme, Free Skin Cancer Screening

Pictures of Melanoma

Melanoma Self Screening Guide


2. Grob JJ, Bonerandi JJ. The 'ugly duckling' sign: identification of the common characteristics of nevi in an individual as a basis for melanoma screening. Arch Dermatol 1998;134(1):103-104.

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