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If your healthcare provider thinks you might have melanoma, you will likely need certain exams and tests to be sure. Diagnosing melanoma starts with your healthcare provider asking you questions. He or she will ask you about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Your healthcare provider will also examine you. He or she will take a close look at any suspicious moles or other marks on your skin. Your health care provider will look at your skin with the ABCDE rule in mind. This means looking at:

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges of the mole are ragged or irregular.
  • Color. The mole has different colors in it. It may be tan, brown, black, red, or other colors. Or it may have areas that appear to have lost color.
  • Diameter. The mole is bigger than 6 millimeters across, about the size of a pencil eraser. But some melanomas can be smaller.
  • Evolving. A mole changes in size, shape, or color.

Your healthcare provider will ask you about the mole. Tell him or her:

  • When you first noticed it
  • If it hurts or itches
  • If it oozes fluid or bleeds, or gets crusty
  • If it’s changed in size, color, or shape

Make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you’ve had skin cancer in the past. Also note whether anyone in your family has had skin cancer.

For more information on this topic, visit our Health Library.