Wednesday, September 1, 2010


A few weeks ago I met a woman at a book launch.  Her face was marked by 4 or 5 large discolored blisters which she had partially covered with concealer.

She said, "I went to the dermatologist and I told him, 'Careful, I have a party tonight' but he just went ahead and zapped me anyway." 

"Poor thing," I thought.  Just the same, annual checks at the dermatologist for "mole mapping" and "zapping" of sunspots, precancerous solar keratosis or other sun related skin changes is a way of life for the over 40s out here on the frontier of the sun.

Tonight, I am that poor thing.  I went to see a local dermatologist and was wowed by all the cancer-fighting technology in the office. He checked me, took photographs of all the suspicious moles and the camera beamed the images into melanoma spotting software which enlarged each mole to the size of a screen and gave each it a score out of 100.  The score was mapped in a color range (white = bening, yellow= suspicious, orange = concern, red= melanoma).  I had a mildly yellow one but nothing serious.

I was reminded of the ABCDE of skin cancer.  We must watch for:
Asymmetry - nice round moles are safest
Boundaries - edges should be clear and constant
Coloration - should be uniform color
Diameter- safer moles are less than 6mm diameter
Evolution - changes are bad.

Meanwhile, the dermatologist zapped everything he described as a sun-spot because these can develop into "the friendly type of skin cancer" - basal cell carcinoma.  The unfriendly type is, of course, melanoma.

The zapped moles and blemishes (including one I was concerned about) have swollen into ghastly looking lesions.  I think I have about 15 of them in various stages of blistering.  If it wasn't a home of older middle class South Africans, people would think me seriously contagious.

I am a very satisfied customer and am going to hunt for a camera-wielding dermatologist in Seattle for my own mole-mapping day-spa moment.

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