With September being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, its good to always know that skin cancer doesn’t just affect us adults. More teens and young adults are developing skin cancer – scary! I’ve lived in South Florida for about half my life and laying out in the sun has become just a part of life. Now that I have a daughter of my own who loves the pool and beach, I am more aware of the harmful effects of the sun and UV rays. I constantly apply lotion while out in the sun, along with a hat and sunglasses (when she wants to keep them on). Starting these habits early will instill the knowledge that the sun is harmful and we must protect our skin.
“There are various types of skin cancers, most of which don’t become life threatening because they don’t spread from the skin,” said Dr. Ana Duarte, Director of the Division of Dermatology at Miami Children’s Hospital. “Unfortunately, melanoma is different. It is the most dangerous of skin cancers, and if not caught early, it can spread from the skin to other organs, often ending with deadly results.”
Melanoma was once thought to be a result of many, many years of excessive sun exposure. But over the last decade or so, there has been increasing number of cases of melanoma in teenagers, especially in females. Studies show teen girls are more likely to spend time tanning in the sun or under artificial lamps, which becomes extremely dangerous when they don’t apply sun block.
“Rising cases of melanoma are definitely a concern. So often, teens don’t properly protect themselves against the sun because they believe cancer only affects older adults, but this early exposure to sun damage can be ultimately be life threatening, even at a young age.” explains Dr. Duarte. “That’s why it’s so important for parents to remind their children of the importance of wearing sunscreen, especially if they are very fair skinned, have any large moles or a family history of cancer.”
Always check yourself and children for moles or any other abnormal looking spots on the skin, especially if there is cancer history in your family. So when should you go to a doctor? Miami Children’s Hospital suggests seeking medical attention when:
- A bump or mole on the skin that wasn’t there before
- A mole that has changed in size, shape, elevation or color
- A bump or mole that hurts or itches
Dr. Duarte also recommends children with light eyes and fair skin be checked annually by a dermatologist so any moles can be monitored.
If you have any questions or want to know more information regarding child skin cancers and melanoma’s, go to www.mch.com.