About half of all melanomas start with a change in previously normal-looking skin. This usually looks like a dark area or an abnormal new mole. Other melanomas develop from a mole or freckle that you already have.4

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a melanoma and a normal mole. The following checklist (known as the ABCDE list) helps explain what to look for.4


A - Asymmetry

  • Ordinary moles are usually symmetrical (both halves look the same).
  • Melanomas are likely to be an irregular shape or asymmetrical (not symmetrical).
Benign Malignant

B - Border

  • Ordinary moles usually have a well-defined, clear, smooth-edged border.
  • Melanomas are more likely to have a blurred or irregular border with jagged edges.
Benign Malignant

C - Colour

  • Ordinary moles tend to be one shade of brown.
  • Melanomas tend to be more than one colour. They may have different shades, such as brown mixed with a black, red, pink, white or blue tint.
Benign Malignant

D - Diameter (width)

  • Ordinary moles are not usually bigger than the blunt end of a pencil.
  • Melanomas are usually more than 6mm wide.
Benign Malignant

E - Evolving (changing)

  • If you notice any changes to a mole, for example in the size, shape or colour, you should visit your GP.
Benign Malignant

Where you might get melanoma

In women, melanoma is most commonly found on the lower legs. In men, melanoma is most commonly found on the head, neck, chest and back.27  Melanomas are uncommon in areas which are protected from sun exposure.1

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