Melanoma can begin as a small, pigmented growth on normal skin, most often on sun-exposed areas, yet nearly half of the cases develop from existing moles. It commonly occurs on the backs of men and legs of women, but it can occur anywhere on the body where melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) are found, including the eyes, mucous membranes (mouth and genitals), and internal organs.
This type of cancer is generally treatable if caught early, so check your body monthly for new pigmented spots or changes in existing spots that exhibit the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:
- Asymmetry (the shape is not symmetrical)
- Border (the border is irregular)
- Colour (the colour has uneven, irregular brown or black pigment. There may be blue-black, red, blue or white areas)
- Diameter (the diameter is larger than 6 mm; however, many melanomas are smaller than 6 mm in diameter, and it is best to find them before they reach this size)
- Evolving: the pigmented lesion is changing in size, colour, or shape
Melanomas generally cause no symptoms. If melanoma has metastasized (i.e., spread to other parts of the body), you can develop swollen lymph nodes, a colourless lump or thickening under the skin, unexplained weight loss, grey skin, an ongoing cough, headaches or seizures.