What Cancerous Moles (Melanoma) Look Like

examples of melanoma (cancerous moles) on skin
Photo: Getty Images

Learn how to spot cancerous moles (melanoma) in different stages. Follow the ABCDEs (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving) to see if a mole could be potentially cancerous.

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Cancerous Moles: Asymmetry

asymmetrical cancerous mole example

Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.

The mole on the top is basically an oval that is equal on all sides. The one on the bottom has pigmentation outside the defined mole giving it an asymmetrical shape, a warning sign it may be a cancerous mole, the American Academy of Dermatology Association notes.

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Cancerous Moles: Border

cancerous mole example with poorly defined border on skin

Border: Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.

The mole on the top has a clearly defined edge, which is a good sign it's benign. The one on the bottom is irregularly shaped and blotchy. The color fades into the skin in some spots indicating you may have cancerous moles.

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Cancerous Moles: Color

example of a possibly cancerous mole with different colors

Color: Varied from one area to another; shades of tan, brown, and black; sometimes white, red, or blue.

The mole on the top is an even tan throughout, whereas the one on the bottom is splotchy and unevenly colored. The dark patches and variation of color with in the mole reveal the potential that you may have cancerous moles.

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Cancerous Moles: Diameter

example of possibly cancerous mole with a wide diameter

Diameter: Melanomas are usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

The small mole on the top is nothing to worry about. When a mole is large, like the one on the bottom, it should be looked at by a doctor immediately. It could be a sign of cancerous moles.

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Cancerous Moles: Evolving

evolving potentially cancerous moles

Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest of the spots on your body or changes shape, size, or color.

The image on the top has many moles that are similar in size and color. The image on the bottom also has several moles but the larger, darker one indicates concern for cancerous moles.

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What to Do Next

If you have performed an at-home skin check, monitored any spots, and noticed an irregular mole, make an appointment with a dermatologist. A derm will be able to test, diagnose, and then remove a potentially dangerous mole.

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