What are the early signs of melanoma?


Quick Answer

Among the early signs of melanoma include new growths on the skin, moles that change shape or don't heal, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Monthly head-to-toe self-examination can help you spot melanoma early, when it is the most treatable.

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Full Answer

One way to remember all the signs is to use the reminder ABCDE, says Skin Cancer Foundation. The letter A stands for asymmetrical borders. If you can draw a line through a mole and the sides don't match, it is asymmetrical. Also, pay attention for B, uneven borders. Skin growths with notched or scalloped borders can be melanoma. Check moles for multiple colors, or C. If a mole is multiple shades of black, brown or tan, it may be cancerous. Some melanomas can be blue or red as well.

D stands for diameter, and often melanomas have a diameter larger than a pencil eraser. However, in the very early stages they may be smaller. The last sign is E, for evolving. Examine every mole to see if it has changed since the previous month. Be alert to any change in size, shape, color or height of the mole. Also be aware of any itching, bleeding, crusting or other change.

Early detection of melanoma is critical, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports. The five-year survival rate for melanoma that is detected before it reaches the lymph nodes or other organs is 98 percent in the United States. Life expectancy goes down sharply after that to 63 percent survival if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and 16 percent when it has spread to other organs.

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