Search Health Information
Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells and accounts for 50 percent of all cancers. In the US alone, 1 million Americans will be diagnosed in 2004 with nonmelanoma skin cancer, and 55,100 will be diagnosed with melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society.
Fortunately, skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma) are rare in children. When melanomas occur, they usually arise from pigmented nevi (moles) that are large (diameter greater than 6 mm), asymmetric, with irregular borders and coloration. Bleeding, itching, and a mass under the skin are other signs of cancerous change. If a child has had radiation treatment for cancer, nevi in the radiated area are at increased risk of becoming cancerous.
Exposure to sunlight is the major contributing factor to developing skin cancer later in life. In particular, blistering sunburns in childhood and adolescence significantly increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Most people receive more than 50 percent of their lifetime ultraviolet (UV) dose by 20 years of age. Limiting exposure to sunlight in children and teens may pay large dividends in preventing cancers later in life.
There are three main types of skin cancer, including:
|basal cell carcinoma||Basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 75 percent of all skin cancers. This highly treatable cancer starts in the basal cell layer of the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and grows very slowly. Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin - mainly those areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, arms, hands, and face. It commonly occurs among persons with light-colored eyes, hair, and complexion.|
|squamous cell carcinoma||Squamous cell carcinoma, although more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma, is highly treatable. It accounts for about 20 percent of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma, may appear as nodules or red, scaly patches of skin, and may be found on the face, ears, lips, and mouth. Squamous cell carcinoma can spread to other parts of the body. This type of skin cancer is usually found in fair-skinned people.|
|malignant melanoma||Malignant melanoma accounts for 4 percent of all skin cancers, and accounts for 79 percent of deaths from skin cancer. Malignant melanoma starts in the melanocytes cells that produce pigment in the skin. Malignant melanoma usually begins as a mole that then turns cancerous. This cancer may spread quickly. Malignant melanoma most often appears on fair-skinned men and women, but persons with all skin types may be affected.|
To prevent melanoma, it is important to examine your child's skin on a regular basis, and become familiar with moles, and other skin conditions, in order to better identify changes. According to recent research, certain moles are at higher risk for changing into malignant melanoma. Moles that are present at birth and atypical moles, have a greater chance of becoming malignant. Recognizing changes in your child's moles, by following this ABCD Chart, is crucial in detecting malignant melanoma at its earliest stage. The warning signs are:
|Normal Mole / Melanoma||Sign||
|Asymmetry||when half of the mole does not match the other half|
when the border (edges) of the mole are ragged or irregular
|Color||when the color of the mole varies throughout|
|Diameter||if the mole's diameter is larger than a pencil's eraser|
|Photographs Used By Permission: National Cancer Institute|
Melanomas vary greatly in appearance. Some melanomas may show all of the ABCD characteristics, while other may only show changes in one or two characteristics. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Skin cancer is more common in fair-skinned people - especially those with blond or red hair, who have light-colored eyes. However, no one is safe from skin cancer. Almost half of all Americans who live to age 65 will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other risk factors include:
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has declared war on skin cancer by recommending these three preventive steps:
The following six steps have been recommended by the AAD and the Skin Cancer Foundation to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approves of the use of sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months old if adequate clothing and shade are not available. Parents should still try to avoid sun exposure and dress the infant in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. However, parents also may apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to the infant's face and back of the hands.
Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under the umbrella. Snow is a particularly good reflector of UV rays. Reflective surfaces can reflect up to 85 percent of the damaging sun rays.
Finding suspicious moles or skin cancer early is the key to treating skin cancer successfully. Examining your children (and yourself) is usually the first step in detecting skin cancer. The following suggested method of examination comes from the American Cancer Society:
Click here to view the
Online Resources of Dermatology
|Pocket Doc Mobile App|
|Maps and Locations (Mobile)|
|Programs & Services|
|For Health Professionals|
|For Patients & Families|
|Find a Doctor|