Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Skin Cancer Slideshow
- Take the Skin Cancer Quiz
- Sun-Damaged Skin Slideshow Pictures
- Skin Cancer (Melanoma) FAQs
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
What does melanoma look like? What are melanoma symptoms and signs?
Guideline # 3: A changing spot may be a problem, but not every change means cancer. A mole may appear and then get bigger or become raised but still be only a mole. It is normal for many moles to start flat and dark, become raised and dark, and then later lose much of their color. This process takes many years.
Most public-health information about melanoma stresses the so-called ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole is different from the other half.
- Border irregularity: The spot has borders which are not smooth and regular but uneven or notched.
- Color: The spot has several colors in an irregular pattern or is a very different color than the rest of one's moles.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm).
- Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, color, or overall texture. This may also include new bleeding.
These guidelines are somewhat helpful, but the problem is that many normal moles and other benign lesions of the skin are not perfectly symmetrical in their shape or color. Many spots, which seem to have one or more of the ABCDEs, are in fact just ordinary moles and not melanomas. Additionally, some melanomas do not fit this description but may still be spotted by a primary care physician or dermatologist. Not all melanomas have color or are raised on the skin. Amelanotic melanomas have little or no color may be confused with traumatized benign nevi or basal cell carcinoma. Desmoplastic melanoma may appear to be a thickened area of skin like a scar. As a rule, melanoma is not painful unless traumatized. They sometimes itch, but this has no diagnostic or prognostic importance.
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