Kids Health Matters: Skin cancer

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We think of skin cancer as an adult problem, but it does occasionally develop in children and adolescents.

We think of skin cancer as an adult problem, but it does occasionally develop in children and adolescents.

For 12-year-old Daniel, it all began at back-to-school time last August.

His mother, Antonietta, said, "We went for our haircut, and I saw that Daniel had a swollen lymph node in his neck."

There was also an infected patch on his scalp.

"I thought it was something like a scab," said Daniel.

The family headed right to the pediatrician.

After a host of tests, and surgery on Daniel's scalp and neck, there was a surprising conclusion.

"They decided that they were going to call these melanoma cells," said Antonietta.

Dr. Beth Fox of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says only a few hundred kids and adolescents a year develop melanoma.

As in adults, it can appear anywhere, whether the area had sun exposure or not.

But Dr. Fox says it may not look like the dark, irregular mole seen in adults.

"In children, melanoma often appears as a small pink bump that can bleed when it's injured," said Dr. Fox.

A bump that grows quickly can also be a sign.

Genetics play a big role, but so does unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays, either real or man-made.

Until the year 2000, melanoma was rising 2% a year in kids and teens.

Since then, it's been going down.

"We believe that's due to increased use of sunscreen and the decreased use of tanning beds," said Dr. Fox.

Dr. Fox says broad spectrum sunscreen is a must every day, even on cloudy days in summer.

And it should be reapplied every 2 hours.

A hat with a 3-inch brim adds more protection.

"We've always been diligent about the sunscreen, but now even more so," said Antonietta.

And kids are urged to tell their parents if anything crops up, especially in the scalp.

Daniel said, "I noticed back in May, just never told them about it."

Daniel is doing well now with his treatment. He is looking forward to some time at the shore with lots of sun protection.

For more information on skin cancer in children, visit the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia website.
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healthKids Health Mattersskin cancerchildrenchildren's hospital of philadelphia
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