Ask Dr. Gratch

November 2011

Q.  I have just moved to New York and I have never been to a dermatologist.  I am fair skinned with freckles.  Should I schedule an appointment?

A.  Just like any other doctor’s visit, a visit to a dermatologist is not a bad idea.  In your case, since you have not been seen by a skin specialist, I would say it is a must.  If you are wondering “Why?”  The answer to that question is an annual skin check.  An annual skin check is one of the best tools to monitor and prevent skin cancer.  Although an at home skin screening can be done with:  a full body mirror, a hand held mirror, and a very well lit room, it may be a bit challenging to see everything.  Leaving it to a specialist with a trained set of eyes is the way to go!  An annual skin check will be a scan that examines the: scalp, face, neck, shoulders, back, chest, stomach, arms, legs, and the tops and bottoms of hands and feet.  During this scan we look to see if any of your moles show signs of the ABCDE’s of skin care.  If you decide to do an at home screening, here is what you should be looking for:

* A = Asymmetry:  one half is different/unlike the other half.

* B = Borders:  an irregular or poorly defined border.

* C = Color:  the color varies from one half to the other.  Has visible shades of brown, tan, black, or white.  Some spots may even be red or blue.

* D = Diameter:  usually a melanoma measures greater than the size of a pencil eraser (which is about 6mm.), but they can be smaller.

* E =  Evolving:  a lesion or mole that changes or looks different from the others.