The dreary days of winter are quickly giving way to longer hours of daylight. Kids will soon be swimming, biking, playing sports and enjoying all the other advantages that more sunshine and warmer weather offers. They’ll also be absorbing more UVA and UVB rays.
While skin cancer in children is rare, and melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer- is even more unusual, more cases are being reported according to a new study. The rates increased by about 2% per year from 1973 to 2009 in U.S. children ages newborn to 19. Melanoma accounts for up to 3 percent of all pediatric cancers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
As you might expect, the largest increase was seen in teenage girls from 15 to19 years old. Girls tend to lay out in the sun or visit tanning booths more often than boys. Girls are more likely to have melanomas on their lower legs and hips while boy’s melanomas are typically found on the face and trunk.
Recent studies have also shown that melanoma is on the rise among adults as well. Exactly what is driving these trends is not fully understood, but increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from both the sun and tanning booths as well as greater awareness of melanoma may be responsible, according to study authors led by Jeannette Wong of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Skin cancer looks pretty much the same in children as it does in adults. Parents should routinely check any moles or changes in their child’s skin.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer. It is highly treatable, grows very slowly and is located on the top layer of skin. It 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 more commonly occurs among people with light-colored eyes, hair, and complexion.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a more aggressive skin cancer but is still highly treatable. It 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, although this is rare. This type of skin cancer is usually found in fair-skinned people.
Melanoma accounts for a small percentage of all skin cancers, but the most deaths. Malignant melanoma sometimes 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 people with all skin types may be affected.
The researchers used a database to capture trends in childhood melanoma, but they did not have any information on participants' tanning habits or sun exposure history. Other risks for melanoma among children and adults include fair skin, light-colored hair and eyes, moles, family history of melanoma and a history of sunburns.
In addition to sunscreen, parents may want to consider purchasing sun protection clothing for their child. Many department stores and online clothing sites now provide sun protection clothing for all ages, from newborn to adult. These specially treated fabrics offer a sun protection factor of 50 and are washable.
Although skin cancer in children is still fairly rare, skin cancer in adults is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Each year new cases increase and the Skin Cancer Foundation predicts an estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013.
The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet radiation so protecting your children (and yourself) from sunburn and over exposure now can have a significant and positive affect on your child’s long-term health.
The study’s findings are published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Sources: Denise Mann, http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=675015