Sun damage puts children and teens at risk for deadly melanoma, so parents need to protect their youngsters from the sun and teach them about sun safety, oncologists say.
“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age,” said Dr. Alberto Pappo, director of the solid tumor division at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about getting a skin cancer screening.
“The vast majority of cancers found at the screenings will be regular skin cancers, not melanoma,” according to Leon Oostendorp, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group surgeon specializing in melanoma and breast cancer.
If a case of melanoma is found, patients are referred to the melanoma multispecialty team at the Spectrum Health Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion. Several melanoma team members—including an oncologist, a surgeon, a dermatologist, and a nurse navigator—will devise the best treatment plan.
“Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults,” he explained in a hospital news release.
“And although rare, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in younger patients and affects mostly teenagers. Children are not immune from extreme sun damage; parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life,” Pappo said.
About 76,700 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Melanoma is most common in whites, occurring five times more often than in Hispanics and 20 times more often than in blacks.
About 7 percent of cancers in youths aged 15 to 19 are melanomas.
Parents should monitor their children for these signs: a mole that changes, grows or doesn’t go away; an odd-shaped or large mole; a pale-colored or red bump; a mole or bump that itches or bleeds.