ZocdocAnswersWhat are the symptoms of malignant melanoma?

Question

What are the symptoms of malignant melanoma?

What are the symptoms of a malginant melanoma? I've got a small mole on my upper arm that is VERY dark, and I remember that a dark mole is more likely to be dangerous. What else should I look for if this is cancerous?

Answer

Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells (called melanocytes) in the skin. While melanoma accounts for only a small percentage of the total number of skin cancers diagnosed, it is by far the most dangerous, and accounts for the majority of deaths due to skin cancers. There are a number of warning signs that people can look for that can lead to a diagnosis of melanoma. One of the most worrisome signs is a new mole or a mole that appears to be changing in its appearance. Dermatologists and primary care physicians also teach patients about the ABCDE system to help in identifying moles that may be worrisome. "A" refers to Asymmetry, in which one half of the mole does not look like the other half. "B" refers to Borders, as melanomas often have irregular and/or blurred borders. "C" refers to Color, as melanomas often do not display one uniform color; "patriotic" moles displaying red, white or blue colors can be a warning sign. "D" is for Diameter, as melanomas are typically wider than 6 millimeters. "E" is for evolution, as noted above, in which changing moles are worrisome for melanoma. While most melanomas are pigmented, there are also melanomas that are non-pigmented, and for this reason it is crucial to keep a close eye on all skin lesions. Additionally, it is important to know that only a dermatologist can truly tell the difference between a benign and malignant skin lesion, and for this reason, it is important to consult your doctor if you are concerned about a particular mole.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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