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Melanoma symptoms

Men and women discussing melanoma skin cancer

This page is about the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Melanoma symptoms

There are definite signs that a mole could be a melanoma and should be seen by a doctor. You should go to the doctor straight away if you have a new mole or skin change, or a mole that is

  • Getting bigger
  • Changing shape, particularly getting an irregular edge
  • Changing colour – getting darker, becoming patchy or multi shaded
  • Loss of symmetry - the two halves of your mole do not look the same.
  • Itching or painful
  • Bleeding or becoming crusty
  • Looking inflamed

Moles with 3 or more different shades of brown or black are particularly likely to be melanoma. Melanomas are most common on the back in men and the legs in women. If you have a dark area under a nail that is getting bigger and is not due to an injury you should also see your doctor.

Precancerous moles are almost always removed under local anaesthetic. An early melanoma can be cured in this way. But if you leave them too long, they can become very difficult to treat.

Melanoma of the eye

Rarely, melanoma can start in the eye. This type of melanoma is most often diagnosed during a routine eye examination by an optician or eye specialist. There is more information about eye melanoma in the eye cancer section.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About melanoma section

 

 

Moles that must be checked out urgently

There are definite signs that a mole could be a melanoma and should be seen by a doctor. You need to go to the doctor straight away if you have a new mole or skin change, or if you have a mole that is

  • Getting bigger
  • Changing shape, particularly getting an irregular edge
  • Changing colour – getting darker, becoming patchy or multi shaded
  • Loss of symmetry - the two halves of your mole do not look the same
  • Itching or painful
  • Bleeding or becoming crusty
  • Looking inflamed

Research suggests that moles with 3 or more different shades of brown or black are particularly likely to be melanoma. If you have a dark area under a nail that is getting bigger and is not due to an injury you should also see your doctor.

We have a page with some photographs of abnormal moles and melanomas. They should help you to recognise what is not normal. Remember though, that not normal for you is what counts.

Precancerous moles are very easy to treat. They are almost always removed under local anaesthetic. An early melanoma can be cured in this way. But if you leave them too long, they can become very difficult to treat.

 

Where you might get melanoma

Melanomas in men are most common on the back. In women, the most common site is the legs.

Diagram showing where melanoma is most likely to develop on the body

If you have an enlarged lymph gland close to an abnormal mole, then you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

 

Melanoma of the eye

Rarely, melanoma can start in the eye. If the melanoma is growing in the iris (the coloured part around the pupil), you may be able to see a dark spot. If it is growing inside the eye, there will be not be any outward sign. But you may have changes in your eyesight. This type of melanoma is most often diagnosed during a routine eye examination by an optician or eye specialist. There is more information about eye melanoma in our eye cancer section.

 

More information

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

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Updated: 16 January 2014