Melanomas are the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas can develop from moles or skin lesions that have changed in appearance, but most do not.


To identify a melanoma, follow the ABCDE’s.

  • A is for asymmetry: if you draw a line through the middle of the mole, one side would look different from the other.
  • B is for border irregularity: the border or edge of the mole is uneven, notched or not smooth.
  • C is for color: the color, or pigmentation, of the mole varies in shades of brown, black and tan.
  • D is for diameter: the size of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • E is for evolution: any changes in an existing mole or other mark on the skin.


The area around a melanoma can become red swollen, itchy or burning. Melanomas can grow anywhere on the body. On men, they typically occur on the upper back; on women, they often occur on the legs. Older persons have melanomas occur on the face, scalp, ears, and neck.

Melanomas grow rapidly and spread to other organs including the brain. To confirm a diagnosis of a melanoma, a biopsy must be performed by a doctor. Early detection is important.

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