Early melanoma symptoms and how to spot them

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Melanoma stages

Melanoma is diagnosed through a staging system with different outcomes and treatments advised for each stage. Stages range from one to four, with four being the most advanced stage of melanoma, where it has spread to distant lymph nodes or other organs. In stages one and two, when early signs of melanoma are present, melanoma is only present in the skin and hasn’t spread deeper throughout the body yet. In stages three and four, melanoma has spread or metastasized to other areas.

The symptoms of stage one and two melanoma are typically the development of an atypical mole or skin lesion. While melanoma usually appears on the skin as a new spot or growth or a change in an already existing mole, in some cases, it can also occur on the otherwise normal-looking skin.

Understanding which moles or other skin spots can cause concern is key to staying on top of your skin health.

Melanoma treatment options stage 1 to 4

What’s a normal mole?

A normal mole is even in color, quite small, and usually has appeared during the early part of your life. Most importantly, a normal mole remains the same; it won’t change or evolve.

Normal moles pictures

What are the early melanoma symptoms?

There are a few early melanoma symptoms that you can identify in a potentially cancerous mole. A mole can be of concern when it:

  • Develops a crust or a scab
  • sometimes bleeds
  • feels itchy
  • feels tender
  • is getting bigger or swelling
  • is strangely shaped (i.e., not round)
  • has irregular borders
  • includes many different colors or shades
  • is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser in diameter
  • has appeared recently (when you are an adult)
  • has a changing surface texture
  • looks different than other moles or spots around it

Sometimes, early melanoma symptoms can be different from the above. For example, melanoma can also appear as:

  • a dark streak under a toe or fingernail
  • an area of dark skin around a toenail or fingernail
  • a slow developing plaque of skin that resembles a scar
  • a new patch or spot on your skin that looks like an age spot

What does a melanoma mole look like?

These are typically signs of acral lentiginous melanoma. Learn more about the different types of melanoma.


Keep your eyes open

While melanoma can take many different variations, staying alert to any changes in your skin is the best way to detect cancer early. Perform head-to-toe skin checks regularly to spot any new or evolving moles or spots.

Use SkinVision to check your skin for signs of skin cancer and keep track of your skin health. Download SkinVision now:

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"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom

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