Melanoma Cheat Sheet

In the United States, more than 29,000 women are diagnosed with melanoma annually.  Risk factors and warning signs may include:

Risk Factors:

  • I have fair skin and light eyes.
  • I have many freckles.
  • I've had severe, blistering sunburns as a child or adult.
  • I have a family history of melanoma.
  • I've had melanoma in the past.
  • I have non-cancerous, unusual looking moles (called dysplastic nevi).
  • I have more than 50 moles.
  • I have an impaired immune system.
  • I've been exposed to UV radiation from tanning salons and tanning beds.
  • I often go outside between the hours of 10am-4pm without sun screen.

Warning Signs:

  • A growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, red, pink, or multicolored.  For women, often on the lower legs, between the shoulders and hips.
  • A mole that changes in color or in texture, takes on an uneven shape, gets larger, or is bigger than a pencil eraser
  • A spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, fade, or bleed
  • An open sore that lasts for more than 4 weeks, or heals and then reopens
  • A scaly or crusty bump that is dry, rough, and pointed (sticks out like a horn) and may sometimes cause a pricking or tender feeling in the skin

Self-examine your skin regularly and know the pattern of moles, spots, freckles, and other marks on your skin so you can notice any changes.  If you detect any changes in your skin or new growths, make an appointment with your doctor right away and discuss whether a biopsy is appropriate for you. 

Contact The National Women’s Health Information Center for information on health insurance coverage or free clinics. Visit or call 1-800-994-9662.

Remember, early detection equals survival!

This information is provided by theAmerican Cancer Society and The Skin Cancer Foundation.

This information was reviewed by the Cancer Schmancer Medical Advisory Board.

Last reviewed August 2010.