To make this resource as useful as possible, please make sure you review and understand the following information.
The National Cancer Institute has collected photographs of 29 different pigmented skin lesions, presented as case series, to help patients and other individuals recognize common moles, dysplastic nevi (DN), and melanomas that started from DN. Each case series shows changes in an individual pigmented lesion (mole) over time and across the various mole changes typically seen in individuals from U.S. melanoma-prone families.
This resource is intended for patients and others in the lay public. It only includes images of individuals who are at the highest risk of developing melanoma (i.e. Caucasians). Additional information, including resources for other racial and ethnic groups, can be found in the Intended Audience section.
This resource provides information about and examples of: common moles, dysplastic nevi (atypical moles) and melanoma. This collection does not include any pictures of non-melanoma types of skin cancer (e.g. basal cell or squamous cell). Since they arise from different cell types in the skin, they look very different from melanoma. Additional information, including resources for other types of non-melanoma skin cancer, can be found in the Intended Audience section.
Asymmetry - The shape of one half does not match the other half.
Border that is irregular - The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Color that is uneven - Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
Diameter - There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch wide).
Evolving - The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
Please click on the images below to view examples of moles, dysplastic nevi, and melanoma.
The DN section is subdivided into two broad categories: stable and fading, and evolving toward melanoma.
Each case series shows changes in an individual pigmented lesion over a number of years and across the spectrum of changes typically seen in U.S. melanoma-prone families. We include a description of the “ABCDE” features for each type of pigmented lesion (moles, DN, and melanomas). Although the “ABCDE” rules were made for identifying early melanoma, they can also be used to describe DN.
For more information about the study from which these cases were identified, please go to: Clinical, Laboratory, and Epidemiologic Characterization of Individuals and Families at High Risk of Melanoma
We thank the study participants for their many years of participation, their willingness to be photographed during skin examinations, and their generosity in allowing their pictures to be included in this resource.
We would also like to thank John Crawford and Mary King, NIH Clinical Center clinical photographers, for their expertise. The tool would not have been possible without the substantial commitment and cooperation of both the study participants and the clinical photographers.
The photographs in this tool show moles on the skin of participants enrolled in the NCI Familial Melanoma Study. This study only includes individuals in U.S. melanoma-prone families who are at high-risk of developing this form of skin cancer. As shown in Figure 1, Caucasians are at the highest risk of developing melanoma. To date, this study has not identified or enrolled any non-Caucasian families; therefore this tool does not provide images representative of other ethnicities.
This collection does not include any pictures of non-melanoma types of skin cancer (e.g. basal cell or squamous cell), since they arise from different cell types in the skin they look very different from melanoma. For information on those types of skin cancer, visit the following websites: National Cancer Institute - Skin Cancer (including Melanoma) & American Cancer Society - Skin Cancer Facts.