Melanoma occurs when the melanocytes (skin cells that produce pigment) become cancerous. Once the melanocytes mutate, they can grow and invade other tissues; this makes melanoma the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If melanoma is left untreated, it can spread beyond your skin and into your internal organs. Because of this, if you have any moles that resemble melanoma, you should see a dermatologist right away.
In some cases, melanomas look like regular moles, but in most, they appear to be irregular. If you have a mole that has changed in appearance, please see a dermatologist as this is one of the warning signs of melanoma.
Skin inspections are an important way of detecting melanoma, and there are a number of different things to look for. One good way to remember the characteristics of a cancerous mole is by following the ABCDEs. These stand for:
A = Asymmetry—one side of the mole doesn’t match up with the other one.
B = Border—the edges of the mole are blurred and uneven.
C = Color—the color of the mole is uneven and consists of shades of blue, white, tan, brown and black.
D = Diameter—the mole’s diameter is larger than a pencil eraser.
E = Elevation and Evolving– (Elevation) – the mole is unevenly elevated up above the surface of the skin. (Evolving) – the mole burning, tingling, itching or bleeding.