How to Tell a Mole from Melanoma

These pictures show normal moles and melanomas

Most people have moles and they are almost always harmless. Although the first sign of a melanoma is often a change in a mole, it does not necessarily mean that all changes are melanomas.

ABCDEs of Melanoma

A = Asymmetry

Melanomas are frequently asymmetrical: the shape of one half does not match the other.

B = Border

Melanomas frequently have uneven or irregular borders (ragged or notched edges).

C = Color

Melanomas often contain multiple shades of brown or black but can sometimes be mixed with white, gray, blue, or red. Some melanomas will show a loss of color in a preexisting mole or in the area surrounding the mole.

D = Diameter

Melanomas are often larger than or equal to 6 mm (1/4 inch) in diameter. However, with increased awareness about early detection, about 30% of melanomas are found when they are less than 6 mm in diameter.

E = Evolution

Any change. Melanomas typically have shown some evidence of change in the months prior to diagnosis.


If you see any unusual spots, or changes to an existing skin lesion, contact your healthcare provider.

Learn when to contact your doctor

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