Melanoma (For Parents)

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma (mel-eh-NOE-muh) is a type of cancer that begins in a melanocyte (meh-LAN-uh-site), a cell in the top layer of skin (the epidermis). Melanocytes make melanin (MEL-eh-nun), the pigment that gives skin its color.

Melanoma also can develop in other parts of the body, like the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal area.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Melanoma?

Often, melanoma begins as a mole or a bump on the skin. It’s important to know if a mole has changed in size, shape, or color.

Keep this ABCDE rule in mind when checking moles:

  • A for asymmetry: If you were to cut the mole down the middle, would the left and the right sides look different?
  • B for border: Are the edges blurry and undefined? Does it look like it’s spreading sideways?
  • C for color: Does the mole look darker or lighter than usual, or does it have an area of new color — perhaps black, blue, purple, red, or white?
  • D for diameter: Is the mole larger than the eraser on a pencil top?
  • E for evolving: Has there been any change in the size, shape, color, or elevation of the mole?

Melanoma most commonly develops on the trunk, head, and neck for boys, and the lower legs for girls.

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