What is Melanoma & What Does it Look Like?

Article Read Duration 8 min read

Melanoma skin cancer is a highly treatable issue when caught early, however it’s possible to mistake these lesions for a regular mole without taking proper care and consideration to recognise the signs. This article will walk through the characteristics and symptoms of melanoma as well as the main types to look out for. Next, we’ll explain how to minimise your risk of melanoma, including why you should be wearing SPF50+ sunscreen every day of the year. 

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the melanin which colours our skin. This type of skin cancer usually responds well to treatment when caught early, so recognising the signs of melanoma is incredibly important.


What does melanoma look like?

The ABCDE method is helpful to remember the characteristics of melanoma spots:

A – Asymmetry – Are both sides of the mole identical?

B – Borders Are the edges irregular or jagged?

C – ColourAre there varied colours?

D – Diameter – Not all melanomas are large, but a diameter over 6mm is concerning.

E – Evolution – Has there been change in colour, size, elevation, borders or texture. Crusting or bleeding?

These characteristics should be used as a guide only, as not all melanomas will present with these signs. When in doubt, always consult with your GP or dermatologist. Regular skin checks should always be undertaken to monitor any skin changes.  


What are the symptoms?

When it comes to how to diagnose melanoma, it’s always recommended to consult a medical professional. Nonetheless, keeping an eye out for common melanoma symptoms is an essential first step towards prevention and care. 

Key symptoms to look out for are changes to an existing mole or new moles, bumps or other unexpected growths anywhere on the skin. Keep in mind that while certain types of melanoma are more common in heavily sun exposed areas, melanoma can still present in any area of the skin. 


What causes melanoma?

Is melanoma caused by the sun? In many cases, yes. Excessive UV exposure is the biggest preventable cause of melanoma, especially in Australia. There are numerous other risk factors including a high number of moles and repeated sunburns, especially in childhood. 

Is melanoma hereditary? Melanomas are not usually directly passed down via a particular gene, but risk factors such as pale skin tone and number of moles are hereditary. 


Types of melanoma

Understanding the characteristics of the main different types of melanoma is key to being able to self-check for concerning lesions, since melanoma signs vary between type. There are several additional rare types of melanoma, however each of the most common types are outlined below. 


Superficial spreading melanoma

This is the most common type of melanoma. Superficial spreading melanomas can start from an existing mole or as a new spot. They tend to spread across the skin’s surface with uneven looking borders but can eventually penetrate deeper without care

Staying across your skincare routine is integral to achieving your skincare goals. Most products take time and regular use to be fully effective, so make space each morning for your routine. Read below for answers on the daily application of moisturiser and sunscreen.


Lentigo maligna melanoma

Melanomas of this kind are usually found on the most sun exposed areas of the body, including the ears, face and neck. They usually take a long time to spread after appearing as an uneven, large dark patch. Elderly people are more prone to Lentigo maligna melanoma than younger people. 


Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanomas are the second most common form of melanoma, characterised by a firm raised node or bump. As the most aggressive form of melanoma, this type of tumour grows deeper into the skin more quickly than others. 


Metastatic melanoma

When cancer spreads to other areas of the body such as organs or the lymph nodes, it can be classified as metastatic melanoma. These melanomas usually require significant surgery as well as other cancer treatments.


How to prevent melanoma

While there are some genetic factors that influence your risk of developing melanoma, most risk factors can be minimised by making simple lifestyle changes to minimise UV exposure. Here are some key ways to prevent melanoma.


Wear sunscreen 365 days a year

Cancer causing UVA and UVB rays are still present beyond summer, even when the weather appears overcast. That’s why it’s important to wear facial and body sunscreen every day of the year.

Look for a broad spectrum SPF50+ sunscreen such as our Anthelios range. Our Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF50+ is ideal to apply under or over makeup, whereas the Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen SPF50+ suits dry skin types. Alternatively, those with oily or acne-prone skin can try the Anthelios XL Anti-Shine Dry Touch Facial Sunscreen SPF50+.


Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions. 


Seek shade

One highly effective way to avoid cancer causing UV damage to the skin is to simply try to avoid as much sun exposure as possible, even while outdoors. Seeking shade is an easy way to minimise the UV rays hitting your skin, while simultaneously helping you keep cool. 


Wear sun protective clothing

Many of us tend to wear clothing that exposes a large percentage of our skin in the summertime.However, adding some lightweight, covered layers to your summer rotation can significantly reduce direct sun exposure without adding too much warmth. Pair your light layers with a broad brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses for optimal physical sun protection.


Check moles regularly

Given that research shows 70% of melanomas originate from new moles1, it’s incredibly important to self-check your own moles at least once every three months. Read our guide to Different Types of Moles and How to Check Them for a detailed run through. Medical professionals also recommend making an appointment for a dermatologist administered skin check annually. 



Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.


Anthelios is a pioneering player in the sun care market. Its broad-spectrum, very high protection is the result of almost 30 years of advanced clinical research into sun care and sensitive skin.




UVA rays disrupt skin’s inner building blocks such as collagen and elastin fibres. Over time,sun exposure causes a loss of plumpness and elasticity as well as wrinkles. UVB rays also stimulate patchy and irregular pigment production leading to dark spots and a sallow complexion. Globally, these changes in the skin are known as photo-ageing.
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Even on a grey and rainy day, skin is exposed to UV rays that will gradually cause the stigmata of photo-ageing to appear. To fully protect your skin, opt for sunscreen every day, not just when it’s warm and sunny. 
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TRUE. If detected early, 90% of skin cancers are curable. That is why screening is so important between dermatologist visits, to keep an eye on your moles and those of your loved ones.
And of course, make sunscreen a daily non-negotiable to protect your moles and prevent skin cancer.
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