Skin Cancer in Children

Each year, more than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer. And while the majority of those with skin cancer are adults, occasionally children may also be diagnosed. By learning more about skin cancer, how to prevent it, and how to spot it early we can better keep our kids cancer-free.


There are different types of skin cancer, depending on how the cells mutate. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. In general, melanoma is a high-risk cancer, while basal and squamous cell carcinomas are less serious.


To find melanoma early, it is important to examine your child's skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with moles, and other skin conditions they may have in order to better identify any abnormalities or changes. Certain moles are at higher risk for changing into melanoma. For example, larger moles that are present at birth and irregular moles have a greater chance of becoming malignant. 

You can use a method called the “ABCD Rule” to recognize changes in your child’s moles, detecting melanoma in its earliest stages when it is easiest to alleviate:

Asymmetry. If you were to draw an imaginary line down the middle of the mole, would one side roughly match the other, or is there a significant difference?

Border. Are the borders of the mole like a smooth line, or more jagged?

Color. Is your child’s mole the same color, or does it show a few different shades?

Diameter. If your child’s mole larger in diameter than the eraser on a standard pencil?

In addition to these symptoms, keep an eye on your child’s mole to see if it is tender or if they itch it frequently. Regularly check to see if it bleeds, oozes, or crusts over. If it becomes injured, watch to make sure it heals properly, or if it becomes red or swollen. 

If you answered yes to any of the ABCD questions or if you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician. If skin cancer is detected, it can often be easily treated through surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy, or other therapies.

Decreasing risk

Some characteristics may put your child at a slightly heightened risk of developing skin cancer. Generally, those with fair skin and lighter eyes are more likely to have skin cancer, as well as those with more freckles, a weakened immune system, or a family history of skin cancer. 

One of the greatest risks to your child’s skin is sun exposure and sunburns. While you may not be able to mitigate many of these risks, you can help monitor the amount of time your child spends in the sun and protect them against sunburn using sunblock (SPF-30 or higher), clothing, sunglasses, and other protective gear.

Learn more about other pediatric cancers, along with cancer treatments, using the links below.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.


Bone Cancer

Bone cancer is cancer that either starts in a bone or has spread to a bone from a different part of the body. Cancer that has spread to a bone is a much more common type of bone cancer than cancer that starts in a bone.

Brain Cancer

Find related articles and information about pediatric brain cancer.



Chemotherapy [KEE-moh-THER-uh-pee] is the use of medicine to destroy cancer cells. Sometimes these medicines are called “anticancer” drugs. Chemotherapy may also be used to treat immune system diseases.

Ewing Tumor

A Ewing [YOO-ing] tumor — also known as Ewing sarcoma [sahr-KOH-muh] — is a rare type of cancer that grows in bones or soft tissues and most commonly happens in teenagers. Learn how Ewing tumors are diagnosed and treated and what factors affect the chances of recovery.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal [koh-luh-REK-tl] cancer includes both cancer of the colon and the rectum and is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. This type of cancer is typically found in adults over 50 and rarely affects children.

Eye Cancer

Eye cancer is a condition where cells grow and spread in places they are not supposed to be, both in and around the eyes.

Germ Cell Cancer

Germ cell cancer is cancer of the sperm and eggs, which can create germ cell tumors in the ovaries, testes, chest, pelvis, head, and other areas of the body. Treatment for this kind of cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma [HODJ-kin lim-FOH-muh] is a rare type of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Children with Hodgkin lymphoma have cells in their lymphatic system that undergo a change in their DNA and start to grow and multiply when they shouldn’t.

Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is a cancer that starts in the kidneys. There are several types of kidney cancer.

Leukemia Blood Cancer

Leukemia [loo-KEE-mee-uh] is a type of blood cancer that affects the early blood-forming cells, usually the white blood cells. Leukemia is just one type of blood cancer.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is abnormal cell growth in the liver that can spread to other parts of the body. Doctors aren’t always sure what causes this kind of cancer, but risk factors include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver.

Lumbar Puncture

A lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, is done to collect some of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord for testing. A lumbar puncture can help the doctor diagnose problems with the brain and spinal cord, including cancers, infections, and bleeding around the brain.


Melanoma [mel-uh-NOH-muh] is both the rarest and most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Melanoma occurs when the cells that determine your child’s skin and hair color become cancerous.

Non Hodgkins Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma [lim-FO-muh] is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells in your child’s lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of your child’s immune system, which helps your child’s body fight disease and infection.

Treatment Page

Radiation therapy aims a high dose of radiation at cancer cells. The goal is to shrink a tumor or ease cancer symptoms.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid [THAHY-roid] cancer is a cancer of the thyroid gland, located in the neck. It’s more common among women and has good survival rates if detected early. The most common form of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma [PAP-uh-ler-ee kahr-suh-NOH-muh].

Wilms Tumor

A Wilms’ tumor [VILMZ TOO-mer] is a rare form of cancer, but it is the most common kidney cancer in kids. Usually, it is a single, painless, large tumor found in a child under the age of 5, and it might be removed completely with surgery.