What Does Melanoma Look Like? 

"Is this mole melanoma?" This is one of the most frequently-asked questions we hear. Seeing pictures of moles  - both benign and malignant - and the changes they undergo may help you understand what melanoma looks like, especially 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 and body well so you can 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, especially those that are new or changing, 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.

Have you been diagnosed with melanoma and want to share your photo to help others learn? To submit your own photo, please send the photo, description (location/diagnosis/etc.) and permission for us to use it to education@melanoma.org. PLEASE NOTE: A melanoma diagnosis can only be made with a biopsy and examination of the tissue under a microscope. The MRF cannot diagnose melanoma or provide medical information based on a photograph. If you have an unusual mole, or a mole that is changing, make an appointment with a dermatologist for a professional examination. 

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

Acral Melanoma Photos 

(Under the nail bed, this is often referred to as subungual melanoma)



Source: Photos courtesy of Dr. Guowen Wang in the Department of Soft Tissue Cancer, Tianjin Cancer Center, Tianjin Medical University

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"

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

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

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

View More Melanoma Photos

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