How to Recognise Melanoma

Out of all the nations of the world, New Zealand holds the unenviable title of having the world’s highest rate of invasive melanoma, with around 50 cases diagnosed per 100,000 people in 2016. Back in 1999, the rate was 77 cases per 100,000 people. With increased awareness of how to identify a melanoma early, experts believe this number can be reduced even further.

It’s important to realise that not all skin cancers are melanoma. There are three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most serious. If left undetected and untreated, melanoma can lead to death. For people with early-stage melanoma, the outcome is excellent. According to Melanoma New Zealand, being able to recognise the first signs of change of an existing mole, or the appearance of a new mole, is key.

If you are concerned about a mole … Being aware of how your skin normally looks will help in deciding to seek a medical opinion, should you notice a new mole, or a mole that changes appearance.

When checking your skin, use the ABCDE system to help you remember what to look for:

  • Asymmetry The two halves of the mole don’t match.
  • Border irregularity The edges of the mole appear jagged, irregular or blurred.
  • Colour The colour isn’t uniform.
  • Different from other lesions. Has the lesion changed in comparison to the surrounding moles, particularly in size? Melanomas are typically bigger than 6 mm in diameter.
  • Evolving An existing mole has grown or a new mole has appeared.

You should also see your doctor if you spot a dark area under a nail that is getting bigger and is not caused by an injury. For more information, go to, and

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