August 1 2014

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Dial Your Derm: How Often Should You Put In A Call To Your Doctor?


This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail celia_ ellenberg@

How often should someone with relatively normal skin see a dermatologist?
A routine total body skin exam should be done on most individuals on an annual basis. Those with a family history of skin cancer, such as melanoma, or who have been diagnosed previously with skin cancer may need to see their dermatologist more frequently and should consult their doctor regarding what examination schedule makes sense based on theirindividual personal/family history and/or diagnosis. Other reasons people may opt to see their dermatologist more frequently outside of their maintenancecheckups include concerns such as acne, rosacea, or chronic conditions such as psoriasis.

During these maintenance checkups, dermatologists are focused on assessing any abnormalities that could indicate skin cancer such as changes in appearance to moles on the body and any other signs or symptoms that could indicate the possibility of skin cancer. The ABCDEs are a simple mnemonic tool that dermatologists employ to detect early warning signs of skin cancer during a routine appointment. A is for Asymmetry: a spot is not symmetrical and one half of a pigmented lesion is different from the other; B is for Border: the edges of a spot are poorly defined and irregularly shaped; C is for Color: the color is not uniform and may have different shades of tan, brown, black, and possibly red, white, and blue; D is for Diameter: the spot is growing and oftentimes may be the size of a pencil eraser or larger; and E is for Evolution: the spot is changing in any of [these ways].”

Dr. Robert J. Friedman is a clinical professor ofdermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. The co-editor of the seminal textbook Cancer of the Skin, he is an expert on melanoma and the chairman, CEO and founder of MD Solar Sciences, a product range devoted to advancing the science of sun protection.

Photo: George Marks / Retrofile RF / Getty Images

The Doctor Is In