Is it melanoma?

This is one of the most frequently-asked questions we are asked. Seeing pictures of moles and the changes they undergo -- both benign and malignant -- may help know what melanoma looks like, since these changes can sometimes be subtle. Most melanomas are found by patients, not doctors, so it is very important for you to get to know your skin well and to recognize when a mole isn't "just a mole."

The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles and not all melanomas fall within the ABCDE melanoma guidelines. It is important to note that these pictures should only be used as a guide/reference point. All suspicious moles or lesions should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist immediately.

To view more pictures of melanoma, submitted by actual melanoma patients, please visit the MRF's Melanoma Picture Gallery and Melanoma Scar Gallery. In addition, as a part of our increased efforts in pediatric melanoma, we are currently building a Pediatric Melanoma Gallery.

Atypical Mole (Dysplastic nevus) Photos

A dysplastic nevus is another term for an atypical mole that resembles melanoma but is usually benign. However, individuals who have dysplastic nevi are at increased risk for developing melanoma.

Irregular Mole
Source: National Cancer Institute
3-mm black nodule
Irregular Mole
Source: National Cancer Institute
This lesion has a dark brown, "pebbly" elevated surface against a lighter tan, macular background.
Irregular Mole
Source: National Cancer Institute
The central portion of this mole is a complex papule. The periphery is macular, irregular, indistinct and slightly pink.
Irregular mole
Source: National Cancer Institute
This mole has a characteristic "fried egg" appearance.

Normal Moles Photos

Normal MoleNormal Mole - Pathology
Normal Mole Normal Mole
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation

Natural History of Moles

Natural history of common acquired nevi. Ordinary moles begin as uniformly tan or brown macules, 1 to 2 mm in diameter (a), expand to a larger macule (b), progress to a pigmented papule that may be minimally (c) or obviously (d) elevated above the surface of the skin, and terminate as a pink or flesh-colored papule (e). These lesions are junctional (a,b), compound (c,d), and dermal (e) nevi, respectively. Note their smooth borders and clear demarcation from the surrounding skin.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Ocular Melanoma Pictures


Photo 1: Small choroidal melanoma showing high risk orange pigment

Photo 2: Medium choroidal melanoma near the optic disc showing blood where the tumor has ruptured through the overlying Bruch's membrane to form a "collar button"

Have questions about ocular melanoma? Read about CURE OM, the MRF's initiative for ocular melanoma. 

Source: Photos courtesy of Dr. J. William Harbour of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

View More Melanoma Photos

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