The most common symptom of melanoma is a change in a mole, growth, or birthmark making it abnormal looking. Doctors often use the following ABCD rule for examining a mole for the “abnormal” characteristics that can be warning signs of melanoma:
Asymmetry – when one half of the mole is significantly different than the other
Border – irregularity in the border of the mole. For example, the edges can notched, uneven, or blurred.
Color – uneven and non-uniform coloring. Shades of black, brown, and tan can be observed.
Diameter – a mole of large diameter, usually more than 6 millimeters (half a centimeter)
Melanoma can grow in an already existing mole or birthmark, however, they normally grow in skin that did not previously have any other growth. Melanomas can appear anywhere on your body, and can form in an area that had had significant sun exposure as well as areas that have not. That's why it is important to carefully examine your skin to check for new moles or changes in old moles.
In men, melanoma most often developes:
- on the upper body, between the shoulders and hips * on the head and neck
In women, melanoma most often develops:
- on the upper body, between the shoulders and hips * on the lower legs.
People with dark-skinned can also get melanoma, though it is less likely. For them, melanoma often develops:
- under the fingernails or toenails * on the palms of the hands * on the soles of the feet
If you suspect you have a mole that looks suspicious, the most important thing to do is go see a dermatologist who can examine your mole. If they think there is some risk, they will likely do a melanoma biopsy to confirm whether there is melanoma or not.
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