Is that mole or freckle on your skin just a harmless spot or something sinister? Checking for signs of melanoma is important as it is a serious cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. In fact, melanoma can become life-threatening in as little as six weeks. Therefore, the earlier melanoma is found, the better the chances of successful treatment.
Melanoma can vary in the way it looks. If you have lots of moles, a melanoma usually stands out and looks different from other moles. The first sign is often a new spot or change in an existing mole, such as:
size – the spot may appear or begin to grow larger
colour – the spot may become blotchy with different depths and shades of colour (often brown or black, but can also be red, white, light grey, pink or the colour of your skin)
shape or border – the spot may increase in height, become scaly, have an irregular shape (scalloped or notched) or lack symmetry (the halves look different)
itching or bleeding – the spot may itch or bleed very easily
elevation – the spot may start as a raised nodule or develop a raised area, which is often reddish or reddish brown.
If you notice any of the above, please see you doctor as soon as possible.
ABCDEs of melanoma
The ABCDE checklist is a helpful way to monitor your skin and check for early signs of melanoma.
It is important to get to know your skin, and check it regularly for any changes. Adults who notice new or changing spots should have them examined by their doctor as soon as possible.
Are the halves of each spot different?
Are the edges uneven, scalloped or notched?
Are there differing shades and colour patches?
Is the spot greater than 6 mm across, or is it smaller than 6 mm but growing larger?
Has the spot changed over time (size, shape, surface, colour, bleeding, itching)?
Some types of melanoma, such as nodular and desmoplastic melanomas, don’t fit the ABCDE guidelines. If this is the case for you, a doctor may also assess whether a spot is raised, firm or growing.
Check your skin regularly
New moles mostly appear during childhood and through to the 30s and 40s, as well as during pregnancy. However, adults of any age can have new or changing spots. It is important to get to know your skin and check it regularly. In a room with good light, fully undress and use a full-length mirror to look closely at your:
head, scalp, neck and ears
torso on the ront, sides and back
arms, hands, fingers and fingernails
legs, toes, toenails and soles of the feet.
For areas that are hard to see, use a handheld mirror or ask someone to help.
Look for spots that are new, different from other spots, or raised, firm and growing. Even if your doctor has said a spot is benign in the past, check for any changes in shape, size or colour. If you notice a new or changing spot, ask your doctor to examine it.