Home Health Topics Health Reports Learning Centers Find a Dermatologist Medical Website Design

Melanoma Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

In most cases, melanoma initially appears as a flat or slightly raised growth that displays a variety of colors (e.g., black and brown, or gray, pink, blue, and white). Its edges are poorly outlined and may blur into the surrounding skin and its shape is often asymmetrical (i.e., if one could fold it in half, the edges would not meet). The growth may not exhibit any symptoms, or it may bleed, itch, ooze, or feel sore. Common sites include the trunk (especially the upper back), the lower legs, the head, and the neck.

Melanoma typically originates in the upper layer of the skin, but it can rapidly penetrate into deeper layers and then spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to distant sites in the body. Common areas of metastasis include the lungs, liver, brain, and bone.

Article Continues Below

To distinguish a normal mole from a melanoma, dermatologists have developed the ABCD rule. According to this guide, the following features characterize melanoma:

  • Asymmetrical lesions: the different halves of the mole do not look like each other.
  • Border irregularity: the edges of the mole are indented or notched.
  • Color variation: the mole is not the same color all over.
  • Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser tip is suspect.

Not all melanomas display the features defined by the ABCD rule, so it is necessary to monitor unusual skin symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks.

Standard warning signs of melanoma include a change in mole color from black or brown to white, red, or blue, and development of a new raised, or papular (a solid, elevated lesion) mole. Any new, colored growths or changes in existing moles or lesions should be reported to a dermatologist as soon as possible. Skin cancer rarely is painful, so even lesions that do not hurt demand immediate attention. The sooner the mole is examined, the better the prognosis.

Melanoma can recur and metastasize. Local recurrence occurs at or near the original site and may result from incomplete removal of the primary tumor. The cells first metastasize from the primary tumor to the draining lymph node basin. These "in-transit" metastases are small tumors located in the skin between the original tumor and the lymph nodes. There is a much better prognosis for these local recurrences and in-transit metastases than there is for distant metastases.

Occasionally, metastatic melanoma is discovered with no known primary site; that is, no initial tumor is seen, and the cancer is diagnosed after it has spread. This occurs in 2% to 6% of all diagnosed melanomas. In most of these cases there is lymph node involvement, metastatic skin tumors, and sometimes internal spread. Careful examination of the skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat, and ano-genital area should be performed to look for a tumor.

Physician-developed and -monitored.
Original Date of Publication: 01 Mar 2007
Reviewed by: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 04 Dec 2007

Melanoma, Melanoma Signs and Symptoms reprinted with permission from
©, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

More on Melanoma (3 of 7 articles)

Melanoma Types

Read More »

  • Jon Lovitz Gets Serious About Psoriasis
  • How to Control Psoriasis This Winter
  • New Cholesterol Drug Shows Great Potential
  • Study Slams Dosing Instructions for Childhood Medicines
  • Kids Enjoy Low-Sugar Cereals, Study Finds
  • Alpha-Carotene Linked to Longevity, Study Suggests
  • Higher Risk of ADHD in Children with High Blood Pressure
  • New Discovery Assists in Cancer Research
  • Can Probiotics Help Kids With Upset Stomachs?
  • Could Feeding Infants Formula Help Prevent Type 1 Diabetes?
  • Race, Gender and Location Influence Risk of Hypertension
  • FDA Approves New Drug for Late-Stage Breast Cancer
  • Study Compares Treatment Options for Women With DCIS
  • Diabetes and Depression: A Two-Way Street
  • Study Finds Common Chemicals May Hinder Immune Functioning
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants Linked to Cardiovascular Disease
  • Rates of Some Sexually Transmitted Diseases Rising, CDC Reports
  • Prostate Cancer Treatment May Promote Colorectal Cancer
  • Secondhand Smoke Kills Over 600,000 Annually
  • Smoking Increases Risks of Rheumatoid Arthritis Among African Americans



Alternative Medicine

Animal Health

Avian Flu







General Health


LGBT Health

Male Health

Mental Health





Pediatric Health





Senior Health

Sexual Health

Sleep Disorder




Women's Health

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.

This page last modified: 13 Sep 2010

Remedy Health Media logo
Magazines: Diabetes Focus® | MediZine's Healthy Living™ | Remedy® | RemedyKids™ | RemedyMD™
Websites:® | RemedyLife™ | | |
© 2010 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.