What Does Malignant Melanoma Look Like?

Malignant melanoma can have a variety of physical characteristics. Some melanomas are small, hard bumps on the surface of the skin, while others show up as flat, black marks underneath a fingernail.

Visual signs of melanoma

Because it can be difficult to determine whether a lump or mole is malignant melanoma – and because a diagnosis can only be made by a medical professional – it’s best to promptly discuss any unusual skin changes with a dermatologist or oncologist. These include:

  • Moles that have recently changed in appearance (i.e., grown larger or become more raised above the surface of the skin)
  • Moles that have blurred borders or are uneven in color
  • Bumps, sores or rashes that bleed, flake or develop a scab but do not heal
  • Small, scaly patches on the skin
  • Raised nodules that are itchy, tender or painful to touch
  • Dark stripes of pigment underneath a fingernail

Most moles, bumps and rashes are not a cause for concern. However, in the unlikely event that malignant melanoma is present, early detection can lead to a wider range of treatment options, a more favorable prognosis and a better quality of life.

Melanoma diagnosis and treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we encourage patients of all ages to turn to us with their concerns. We can evaluate your skin and let you know if diagnostic testing is appropriate. If you do have a lesion that requires further evaluation, we can perform a variety of advanced tissue tests to determine if melanoma is present. Our Cutaneous Oncology Program also offers many different treatments for malignant melanoma, from heated chemotherapy and immunotherapy to surgery and radiation therapy. Comprehensive supportive care services and clinical trials are also available at Moffitt.

Rather than wondering what malignant melanoma looks like, you can consult with one of Moffitt’s experienced oncologists to get the answers you deserve. To request a consultation, call 1-888-663-3888 or submit a new patient registration form online. Referrals are welcome, but not required.