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.
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.