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Moles Versus Melanoma Skin Cancer: Learn to Tell the Difference with Pictures

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Updated April 23, 2014

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Pictures of Moles and Melanoma Skin Cancer - Example of Melanoma
Picture of Melanoma Skin Cancer

Picture of Melanoma Skin Cancer

Photo © National Cancer Institute

A melanoma lesion containing different shades of brown, black, and tan.

The "ABCDE" rule can be used to help you remember what a melanoma tumor typically looks like:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.

  • Border: The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.

  • Color: The color is often uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, or blue may also be seen.

  • Diameter: The diameter is usually larger than six millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) or has grown in size. However, melanoma can come in any size.

  • Evolving: The mole has been changing in size, shape, color, appearance, or growing in an area of previously normal skin. Also, when melanoma develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard, lumpy, or scaly. Although the skin may feel different and may itch, ooze, or bleed, melanoma usually does not cause pain.

If you see any of these happening to one of your moles, contact your doctor promptly.

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