A new study in the May Journal of Pediatrics demonstrates an alarming rise in the rate of melanoma among children. From 1973- 2009, the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased by 2% per year. Girls had a higher incidence than boys. Girls had a higher rate of melanoma on the lower extremities, while boys had a higher incidence on the trunk and face. This increase in melanoma rates is particularly alarming as the rate of other pediatric cancers are on the decline.
Researchers demonstrated that other risk factors for melanoma in children include fair skin, light-colored hair and eyes, numerous moles, family history of melanoma and a history of sunburns. Unfortunately, the rise in female adolescent melanoma (ages 15- 19) is likely attributed to tanning booths.
As a mother myself, I love and treasure every little “beauty mark” or birthmark on my children. However, with this new study, I urge all parents to make sure that their children’s moles do not fit any of the ABCDE criterion. In particular, melanomas in children may often grow quickly, so if a parent or pediatrician notices a new or existing mole on a child that rapidly changes size or shape, it should be removed immediately and sent for biopsy.
This new study should alert pediatricians and parents to the fact that children DO get melanomas. Luckily, most melanomas in children are preventable with good sunscreen and sun protection.