In the past, if you had asked your Pediatrician about a suspicious mole and the possibility of skin cancer, you might have gotten a "don't worry - kids don't get melanoma" type response.
Unfortunately, kids do get melanoma and the incidence has been rising, just as it has been rising in adults.
According to the National Cancer Institute, "melanoma is the most serious type of cancer of the skin" with almost 60,000 people getting diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year.
Although still uncommon in kids, the incidence has more than doubled, from 3 per million in 1982 to almost 7 per million in 2002. That adds up to about 500 kids now getting diagnosed with melanoma each year.
The number of kids getting diangosed with melanoma is not large, but they are too large to simply dismiss a mole that appears unusual. You should be aware of the warning signs of melanoma which includes moles or birthmarks that have these characteristics (notify you doctor):
- Asymmetry: in which one half of the mole isn't the same as the other.
- Border: the moles edges are irregular or notched.
- Color: the color isn't the same throughout the mole, especially if it has a mix of tan, brown, white, red, pink, gray, blue, or black.
- Diameter: the mole is larger than 5mm (about 1/4 inch or the size of a pencil eraser).
- Elevation: the mole has recently become raised.
You should notify your child's doctor if you notice any of the above characteristics or warning signs; if a mole is quickly changing in size or color; if the outline becomes notched; if the surface becomes rough, scaly or ulcerated; if it itches, tingles, bleeds, weeps; or looks different from other moles on his body.
A monthly exam of your child's skin may help you detect a suspicious mole at an early stage. Also be sure to have your Pediatrician check moles that look unusual at each office visit.
Regular checkups are especially important for people who are most at risk for developing melanoma, or skin cancer, who can have the following characteristics:
- Frequently blisters and gets sunburn after exposure to the sun and had multiple episodes of sunburn during childhood.
- Has excessive exposure to the sun, especially during childhood.
- Has fair skin.
- Has a family history of skin cancer.
- Has many (more than 50) ordinary moles: Having many moles increases the risk of developing melanoma.
Teach your children to wear sunglasses that have UV-absorbing lenses. The label should specify that the lenses block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Sunglasses can protect both the eyes and the skin around the eyes.
This melanoma screening quiz can also help you see if your kids have any of the signs or symptoms of this common type of skin cancer.