The 5 Key Features of Melanoma & How to Self-Screen


People living with cancer have additional risk factors for developing skin cancer, like melanoma, because their skin is more sensitive to different types of UV radiation from sun exposure. For those who don’t know, melanoma is a form of skin cancer that results from the uncontrolled growth of melanocytes, a pigmented skin cell. Consistent prevention measures, skin cancer screening, and early detection are critical. On average, according to the American Cancer Society, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns. Still, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. 

Many factors can increase your risk of melanoma, including overexposure to UV radiation, a certain phenotype (having moles, fair skin, light eyes, and light hair), and a weakened immune system. Because people with cancer have weakened immune systems and sensitive skin, it is especially important to perform self-checks.

In this article, we’re going to share how to perform a self-check for melanoma to help determine whether you are developing abnormal cells. When self-screening, it’s essential to know what skin cancer looks like. 

The following are the five key features of melanoma, a type of skin cancer:


Common type, benign moles are symmetrical, which means if you draw an imaginary line down the center of the mole, both sides will match. If they do not look the same on both sides, consult with a dermatologist who will determine whether it is a benign tumor, pre-malignant or malignant. 


Examine the edges of your mole. Are they uneven or ragged? Blurred borders can be indicative of melanoma. If your mole has smooth or clear edges, it is likely non-cancerous. 


Normal, benign moles typically have a single color. If your mole suddenly has multiple different shades of brown, red, yellow, blue, flesh-colored, or white, consult with a dermatologist. 


Most moles are smaller than 5 mm (one-fourth of an inch) in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser. If your mole is larger than this or grows in diameter, get it checked out.


A changing mole is arguably one of the most important to have checked out by a dermatologist. If your mole is changing shape, color, height, or starts to itch or bleed—now is the time to schedule your appointment. 

Perform Regular Checks

Check your skin regularly for changes, including areas that are not exposed to the sun. Another distinguishing feature of melanoma is the “ugly duckling sign” when one mole looks markedly different from your other moles. If you have any concerns or notice changes in your skin, contact your dermatologist immediately.

At Oncoderm, our health care team is here to help you and your oncologist treat cancer side effects, and that includes sun sensitivity. If you have any questions about your medication or need more resources for skincare, we’re here and ready to help.

Some frequently asked questions:

Is skin cancer itchy?

Can you die from skin cancer?

What is skin cancer?

Protection for your skin if you develop breast cancer

Relevant for:

Breast cancer, cancer side effects, prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer treatment, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, survival rates


May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which means our team at Oncoderm is focusing on providing resources for people living with cancer and their loved ones, including sun protection, melanoma screening, and guidance. Have specific questions? Connect with our support staff 24/7 by email or chat.