A diagnosis of melanoma is often made during a routine medical checkup, or when a person finds a suspicious mole and goes to the doctor to have it checked. The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in the size, shape or color of a mole. Moles that develop into melanoma tend to look different from ordinary moles. A good way to remember what to look for is “ABCDE” – Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter, and Evolution.
Melanoma can appear suddenly—as a new mole—or it can grow slowly, in or near an existing mole. Get to know the pattern of moles, spots, freckles and other marks on your skin so you can notice any changes. The best way to find changes in these moles and markings is by doing regular skin self-examinations.
If you notice any of the following on your skin, see your doctor as soon as possible:
It is important to find melanoma as early as possible. The American Cancer Society recommends a skin examination during a routine cancer-related check-up in all adults age 20 years and older. During this skin cancer check-up or “screening,” your doctor will probably discuss your medical history and inspect your skin from head to toe—even areas that don’t get any sun. Your doctor will record the location, size, and color of any moles. If a mole looks unusual, he or she may arrange for a biopsy.
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