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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 29 July 2008 Referencing Hub media

    Hayley Reynolds (Auckland Bioengineering Institute) and Associate Professor Rod Dunbar (University of Auckland) explain the changes in moles that can be signs of melanoma developing.


    Melanoma is largely caused by excessive sun exposure, so if someone has spent a lot of time in the sun and got sunburnt from the UV radiation, that is the main contributor to developing melanoma. There are other factors that influence whether you will develop it or not. Someone with fair skin is more likely to get melanoma; somebody with a lot of moles – they would be more likely to develop it.

    Most moles that you look at have a very even colouration and circumference – their shape is very smooth – they are usually circular or oval. If the colouration of the mole or the shape of it starts to change, that can be an indication that some of the cells within the mole have started to grow and started to turn cancerous, or have started to make more pigment or sometimes even less pigment – you can get melanomas that are paler than a mole would normally be. So a second and third sign of melanoma developing, apart from size, is changes in shape and colouration. Itching and bleeding are fourth and fifth signs of melanoma developing, so people have very very itchy moles, or a mole that has particularly started to bleed, and ulcers sometimes form as well. An ulcer is a dent, if you like, in the surface of the mole. And if you get an ulcerating mole that’s starting to bleed that can also be a sign of melanoma.

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    Dr Roger Uren

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