Symptoms of Melanoma

Melanomas are not usually painful. The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanomas can also appear as a new, black, or abnormal mole. It is important to remember that most people have moles and almost all moles are benign. Report any changes to your doctor.

Changes in Existing Moles

Spotting a mole that seems out of the ordinary may be the first warning sign of melanoma. The ABCDE rule highlights suspicious mole characteristics:


When you look at a normal mole, it is even in shape all the way around. An asymmetrical mole has 2 halves that do not look the same. For example, one side is round and the other is not.

Asymmetrical Mole

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The mole has a ragged, uneven edge all the way around.

Irregular Border

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In most cases, moles are brown and evenly colored throughout. However, some moles are tan and black. Changes in the color of the mole may be indicated by different shades of brown, tan, or black. Sometimes, you may notice white, gray, pink, or red mixed. The important point is the change and unevenness of the coloring.

Color Variation

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Normally, moles are less than ¼ inch (6 8 millimeters) in size. Be aware of moles that are larger than an eraser on a pencil. Even though melanoma can occur in small moles, they usually grow larger.


Moles change in color, shape, or size. As melanoma advances, moles become hard or lumpy.

Other Skin Changes

Not all melanomas follow the ABCDE rule. Other signs to be aware of include:

  • Sores on your skin that do not heal
  • Moles that ooze, bleed, or change in texture
  • New discomfort, itching, redness, or swelling
  • Coloring of a mole that extends beyond the border and into the skin
  • A new mole appears near another mole that looks either normal or abnormal

Advanced Symptoms

As melanoma spreads, it can cause problems anywhere in the body. Symptoms depend on where the cancer has spread. Examples of advanced melanoma symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches
  • Pain or a sensation of a mass
  • Decreased appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Abdominal or back pain caused by pressure on nearby nerves
  • Swelling in the legs, which may be caused by an obstruction in the veins or lymphatic system
  • Bone pain


General information about melanoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated March 10, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated January 10, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated May 20, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/18/2016


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