Melanoma showing up in more kids

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by Dr. Art Mollen, Special to azfamily.com and Catherine Holland

GMAZ interview by Stella Inger

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:27 AM

PHOENIX -- Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United State, and residents of the Valley of the Sun are no strangers to it.

"Arizona has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world," according to the University of Arizona Cancer Center. "It is estimated by the American Cancer Society that Arizona will have approximately 1,400 new cases of melanoma in 2013.

While there are several kinds of skin cancer, melanoma is the most dangerous, and a new study shows that it's turning up more and more in kids.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, cases of melanoma, while still rare in kids, increased year over year between 1973 and 2009 and now accounts for up to 3 percent of all pediatric cancers.

The study, which was led by Jeannette Wong of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and appears in the May print issue of Pediatrics, shows that the biggest jump in melanoma cases occurred in teens between 15 and 19, particularly girls.

It's not clear what's behind the increase, but Wong and the other study authors say increased exposure ultraviolet radiation -- both from the sun and from tanning booths -- could be to blame.

While the researchers had information about the participants' melanoma, they did not have specific details about their tanning habits or histories of sun exposure.

What they learned that boys were more likely to develop melanomas on the faces and torsos and girls were more likely to find melanomas on their lower legs and hips.

Like adults, kids with fair skin, light hair, light eyes, moles and history of sunburns are most at risk for developing melanoma. Genetics -- family history of the disease -- are a factor, as well.

The key is to reduce sun exposure and to use a sunscreen that meets or exceeds the sunscreen requirements adopted by the FDA in recent years. That means the sunscreen needs to protect against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B (UVA and UVB) rays with an SPF of at least 15.

The key with sunscreen is to apply it liberally and often. Most people don't use nearly enough and they don't reapply it throughout the day.

Regular checkups with a dermatologist are essential, especially if you or your child has a worrisome mole or brown spot. While melanoma can be deadly, the cure rates are quite good -- even excellent -- when it's caught early. The danger comes when it metastasizes, or spreads, to other parts of the body.

Study authors say melanoma in kinds looks just like melanoma in adults. The signs and symptoms are pretty much the same.

"Parents should be aware of any new or changing moles in their children," said Dr. Amy Forman Taub, a dermatologist in Lincolnshire, Ill. who was not involved in the study.

Skin cancer signs and symptoms

Most moles on a person's body look similar to one another.  A mole or freckle that looks different from the others or that has any characteristics of the ABCDEs of melanoma should be checked by a dermatologist.  It could be cancerous.

Asymmetry: Asymmetry means one half of a mole does not match the other half.

Border: If the border or edges of the mole that are ragged, blurred, or irregular, have it checked.

Color: A mole that does not have the same color throughout, or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white or red is suspicious.  Normal moles are usually a single shade of color.

Diameter:  A mole is suspicious if the diameter is larger than the eraser of a pencil.

Evolving:  A mole that is evolving, shrinking, growing larger, changing color begins to itch or bleed should be checked.


Dr.+Art+MollenDr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to www.drartmollen.com.

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