Pariser Dermatology offers several services. One of those services for our patients includes skin checks. This usually is referenced in several ways: a skin check, a body check, a mole check, skin cancer screenings. When we offer this service to our patients, they come and we sort of look them from head to toe.

Many patients come in and ask me, “What should I be looking for? What should concern me?” When we do that, we are looking for skin cancers but the main thing that we're looking for is something called melanoma. And lots of people have heard about this. It's something that could be potentially life threatening so that's why people get checked.

We usually do something called the A, B, C, D rule. It's an acronym that we go by that a patient should look for but also something that we, as dermatologists, look for. And we have a little card that we usually go by, and the acronym stands for asymmetry, border, color, and diameter.

Asymmetry is basically looking at a mole. It should be very symmetric. One half should look like the other half if you folded it in half. B is border. When we're looking at moles, borders should be very regular. They should be round or elliptical in nature. If they look like a cloud or they're very scalloped in nature, then we get concerned about that. Patients oftentimes comment on what their borders look like. The next one is C for color. Color is probably one of the more important ones that we look for. Colors should be browns, and tans, and pinks, but a mole should never have all of those in the same one. If it has five or six different colors, we would be concerned about that, and that's probably one that we look at all the time, and that's one that we often take off as a dermatologist.

The last one is diameter. If it's bigger than about six millimeters we look at it a little closer. Six millimeters is about the size of a pencil eraser. If it's bigger than that it doesn't mean it's a skin cancer but we do look at closer. In that case patients are born with moles or they soon develop after they're born. They can be much larger than six millimeters, so those moles actually don't count for the most part, but if it is we look at it and we make sure that we take it off or at least evaluate it closer.

We actually don't do an E for A, B, C, D, E for elevation because a lot of patients think that if their mole elevates or it becomes to a point that they can feel it that it's a concerning feature. Most of the time this is not a concerning feature. Moles go through that progression as they get older. Most melanomas are actually flat and I can't feel them, so that's why we don't do E.

So we often give this to patients. When patients ask me what we're looking for, we like to give a card out. This card actually has the A, B, C, Ds of melanoma. On the back it actually has how you should do a skin cancer screen yourself. So at home patients should look in a mirror and they should actually do a skin cancer screening or a mole check once a month. I never tell patients to do it sooner than that because if they look at themselves more often than that, they'll never see anything. They'll never notice a change. I usually tell patients it should happen on the birthdate of their month. So the 15th of every month they should look at themselves after they get out of the shower. This card is easily accessible on the AAD website, the American Academy of Dermatology, and a lot of Internet sources will probably have this as well.

If a patient notices an unusual mole on their body then the next step would be to sort of go through the algorithm that we have, the A, B, C, Ds. If it's unusual to them then it should be evaluated by a dermatologist. Family practice doctors often can do skin checks as well but if they're really concerned about it, I think they should be seen by a dermatologist in the near future so that we can evaluate and put their mind at ease.

Patients that have a lot of moles should probably be screened at least once a year. Patients that have had melanoma or they've had a very significant family history of melanoma are often screened more often than that but patients that just have a lot of moles, we at least need to see you once a year just for a skin screening. Patients at home are doing their own so at least they have themselves looking at themselves. Family practice doctors often have a set of eyes that look at them. We should at least see them once a year, depending on what we find and if we find something concerning, they get to see us sooner and on a more regular basis.

Annual Skin Cancer Screening: What Should You Look For?

Dr Kelly DeHart talks about the importance of annual skin exams, how to determine if your mole should be looked at by a professional, and how to determine how often you should be screened.