Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is a cancerous growth that occurs when unrepaired DNA damage causes skin cells to mutate. It is often due to ultraviolet exposure from natural sunlight or sunbeds. Melanoma symptoms often resemble moles, which means they can be easy to miss. Some melanomas develop from existing moles, which means it is vital that we check our moles regularly.
In addition to the information on this page, you should get the SkinVision app here as a supportive tool, to check the spots you worry about and receive an instant risk indication.
Who should check their moles?
Absolutely everyone should check their moles, at least every 3 months. This self-examination should happen every month if you have a close relative who has a history of melanoma or if you have noticed any new moles appearing on your skin.
It is common to have moles on your skin; these are usually brown or black spots and can be either flat or raised. They are round or oval in appearance and don’t tend to be more than ¼ inch in diameter. Moles such as these usually develop during your childhood or teenage years. If you notice new moles appearing in your adult years then it is important to have them checked out by a doctor.
Moles tend to stay the same colour, shape, and size. They are very common and completely harmless unless they develop into melanoma symptoms. Any changes to a mole’s appearance could signify that a melanoma is developing.
What should I look out for?
If you have any moles that have a different appearance to the rest of the moles on your body, then you must keep an eye on them. These moles are called dysplastic moles and can evolve into melanomas. These moles tend to be larger than common moles, have irregular edges and are an uneven colour.
The colours within dysplastic moles vary from pink to dark brown and they often display several of these colours at once. They tend to be flat rather than raised and often have a scaly or uneven surface. Rather than being round or oval in shape, they tend to have irregular edges that blend into the skin around them.
Having dysplastic moles simply means you need to keep an eye on them and check them regularly. It does not mean you have melanomas. However, if these moles change in shape or colour or they start to hurt or itch then you must see a doctor immediately.
Melanoma are most commonly found on the back, legs, arms, scalp, and face. You must check the moles all over your body though, to ensure you catch any developing melanoma symptoms in time.
When to see a doctor:
Precancerous moles are easily removed under local anesthetic, however, if you leave them for too long they are highly difficult to treat. For this reason, it is vital that you see a doctor immediately if you have a mole that exhibits any of the following melanoma symptoms:
· A change in size (getting larger)
· A change in shape (especially with irregular edges)
· A change in colour (especially getting darker or exhibiting multiple shades)
· A loss of symmetry (common moles will be perfectly round or oval and are always symmetrical)
· Bleeding (maybe even forming a scab)
· Exhibiting three different shades of brown or black
· A change in elevation (thickening or raising of a flat mole)
You should also see a doctor if you notice a dark area under a finger or toenail that is not linked to an injury, especially if it is getting bigger. This can also be a sign of skin cancer. An open skin wound that will not heal can be other signs of skin cancer symptoms.
Is it a normal mole or a melanoma? The ABCDE checklist:
Professionals often use this helpful checklist when advising patients on what to look for in relation to melanoma detection.
· Asymmetrical – Melanomas are distinctly asymmetrical
· Border – melanomas have uneven borders
· Colours – melanomas will contain at least two distinct colours
· Diameter – melanomas are bigger than ¼ inch across
· Enlargement – melanomas grow in size over time
Read more: ABCDE Melanoma self check