The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

September 6, 2013

Suspicious skin spots should be investigated

Dear Dr. Roach: I have a spot on my back that never stops itching. It has been like that for several years (at least three), and although it is tolerable, it is also very annoying. Every so often, a sore that looks like a pimple will form, which usually lasts for several weeks, then goes away. Still, the itching continues.

I am a healthy person and rarely go to the doctor. I mentioned it to my family doctor during a visit. He was in a hurry and barely looked at it, but said it probably was dry skin. This doesn’t make sense because I don’t have a similar problem anywhere else. I have tried lotion, cortisone, topical antibiotics and medicated ointments. Nothing seems to help. I am concerned because the same doctor told an elderly friend that a blood blister he had was nothing, and it turned out to be melanoma. I have never been a sunbather, but I have been exposed to the sun and I have a very fair complexion. Is this something that I should be concerned about? — S.S.

Answer: Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Moles should be inspected for melanoma using the ABCD rule. “A,” for asymmetry, means one half appears differently from the other. “B,” for border irregularity, means a mole that is uneven and not round, like a typical mole. “C,” for color, means different parts of the mole are colored differently -- brown, red, tan, black all may be present. “D” is for a diameter greater than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser). Any of these, or even a change in a previously regular mole, should bring you to your doctor.

Itching can be a sign of melanoma. It is concerning that the doctor did not do a thorough exam, with good lighting and magnification if necessary. I would recommend you visit a dermatologist, if only to be reassured that it is nothing to be worried about.

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