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Melanoma Awareness, Skin Cancer, Skin Checks

How to identify melanoma

What you should look for in a melanoma self assessment

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 08/02/19

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer - it can spread and become life-threatening very quickly. But the good news is, if it’s found early, it’s almost always treatable, and beatable. Read on to ensure you know what to look for when you’re checking your skin.

The most obvious warning signs of melanoma are changes to your skin or moles - how they look or feel. It’s important to note that these changes aren’t always accompanied by pain, so early warning signs can go unnoticed if you’re not vigilant about checking your skin regularly. Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, so that’s a pretty good reason to check your skin early and often – and to book a professional skin check every year.

So what do you need to look out for? Read on to find out.

Moles – what’s normal?
Most moles appear when we’re children or young adults. In general, normal moles are:

- Evenly-coloured brown, tan or black
- Flat or raised on the skin
- Round or oval and symmetrical in appearance
- Most often, less than 6 millimetres across.

Your skin is constantly changing: moles usually increase in number during childhood and adolescence, reach peak count in your 20s, then reduce with age. They can also increase in numbers with sun exposure and grow during pregnancy. If you notice a new mole that appears later in life, make sure you get it checked out. 

How to identify melanoma

Above: New spots or spots that change are the warning signs of melanoma.

Check for changes – early and often
The most important warning signs of melanoma are any new spots on the skin or ones that change. If you notice any variations such as a change in size, shape or colour, it could suggest a melanoma may be developing. Our MoleMap Melanographers are highly trained in detecting the signs of early melanoma, so if you’re concerned, give us a call us on 1800 665 362.

Note: if you have a high number of moles (especially if you have more than 100 moles), you have a higher risk of developing melanoma and should have your skin and moles screened regularly.

Remember the ABCDE rule

ABCDE rule

The ABCDE rule is a simple guide to checking for the early signs of melanoma. Look out for the following:

Asymmetry – the shape of one half doesn’t match the other.

Border – the edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

Colour – the colour is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.

Diameter – size changes and usually increases. Typically, melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter (the diameter of a pencil).

Evolving – look for new moles or changes to any moles.

The EFG rule
The EFG rule is another guide that recognises a type of melanoma known as nodular melanoma. This can grow and become life-threatening very quickly, so early detection and treatment is vital. So check your skin regularly – or better still, book a full body skin check or a spot check. Looking out for:

Elevated - moles that are raised on the skin.

Firm - moles that are firm to touch.

Growing - moles that grow and change very rapidly.

What does nodular melanoma look like?
Nodular melanoma isn’t necessarily dark or coloured, but the key giveaway is that it is raised, often symmetrical, firm to touch, and most importantly, is changing/growing progressively. In the early stages, this change might just be a sense of change rather than visible – perhaps the mole is itchy, or just feels funny.

This type of melanoma can affect anyone, but is generally much more common in men over 50. The frightening thing about nodular melanoma is that because it grows fast, it can go deep very quickly (within a few months), which is why it’s so dangerous and needs early diagnosis and removal.

How to identify melanoma early signs of melanoma

Above: sometimes melanoma can be slow to develop, spreading over a wide area

Other signs to check for...
Just to make checking your skin even trickier, melanoma doesn’t always fit the ABCDE or EFG rules. If you notice a mole or skin lesion (abnormal spot) that is...

  • different from others (the 'ugly duckling')
  • changing in shape, size or colour
  • a new skin lesion, or
  • itches or bleeds

... you should bring it to the attention of your doctor or call us on 1800 665 362 immediately, accurately describing the symptoms and your reason for concern.

If a mole is larger than 6mm get it checked by a doctor

How can you spot melanoma yourself?
Learn how to check your skin regularly and get to know your skin well. It’s a good idea to do a self-check at least every three months (at the beginning of each season is an easy way to remember). Use a small mirror to check all areas, freckles and moles – and if possible, ask someone to check the areas you can’t see, such as your neck, scalp, back, under your arms, the backs of your legs, and the soles of your feet.

If you spot any changes or you’re concerned about a mole or sunspot, give us a call on 1800 665 362. It may not be anything of concern, but it’s always best to get it checked out by experts.

Learn more about the signs of melanoma and other skin cancers, or find out more about MoleMap’s range of skin check services.

Is your skin check comprehensive enough?

When booking a skin or spot check, it pays to shop around and ensure you’re getting the most comprehensive service possible. For complete reassurance, look for a head to toe skin check by trained experts that includes a skin surveillance programme as well as dermatologist diagnosis - such as a Full Body MoleMap. Check out our range of MoleMap services here.

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References: 1. Kantor J, Kantor DE. Routine Dermatologist-Performed Full-Body Skin Examination and Early Melanoma Detection. Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(8):873–876. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2009.137.

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