Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin caner, is usually not a common occurrence in children, however a recent study shows that between 1973 and 2009, in US children from newborn to age 19, there has been a 2% increase, per year in this diagnosis among children participating in this study. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma accounts for 3% of all pediatric cancers.
This study, with its findings published in the print issue of May Pediatrics – examined 1, 317 children during the study time frame and of the group 1,230 children were white. Researchers chose to focus less on children of racial and ethnic backgrounds because the occurrence of melanoma was relatively small in these groups.
The study determined that the biggest jump in melanoma diagnosis occurred in adolescents, between the aged of 15 and 19, and especially girls. The study suggests that girls were more likely to develop melanomas on their lower legs and hips while the occurrence of melanoma in boys will usually occur on their face and trunks. While researchers were able to capture the results of this study by maintaining databases, they were not required to provide information on the tanning habits or sun exposure of the participants. Additional risks for children to be more susceptible to melanoma include: fair skin, family history of moles and sun burn, moles, light colored hair or eyes and any family history of melanoma as well.
As melanoma looks the same on adults as it does in children, parents should always be aware of any changes in moles they see on their children. Early signs of melanoma are summarized with an ABCDE mnemonic:
Asymmetry – uneveness in appearance
Borders – irregularly shaped around the edges
Color – patches or splotches of different colors
Diameter – greater than the approximate size of a pencil eraser
Evolving Over Time – its important to monitor carefully for changes
While melanoma is less common than other forms of skin cancer, it is much more dangerous when not detected early. Always remember the sun protection when heading out for an extended period of sun time. Even during the winter months, most dermatologist now suggest that you protect your self from the sun. Sun block lotions are a good way to keep the harmful rays of the sun away from your skin, especially if you use a lotion that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Another thing to consider with sun protection lotions is to use ones that provide protection from UVA(ultra violet A), UVB(ultra violet B) and IRA (infra red) light. There are also sun smart clothing that can be worn and provide sun protection as well.
Most of us have very fond family memories of playing at the beach and being outside soaking up the warmth and beauty of the sun. We just have to do so responsibly and make sure to protect ourselves and our children so we can always have fun in the sun.