I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed earlier and came across a fear producing title – “Melanoma in Babies.” As I read the short article and could hardly believe what I was reading. A mother with a young daughter was diagnosed with melanoma. She had never had a sunburn and always wore sunscreen so why? How could this happen? For decades people believed that this was their grandparents disease. That only those who had spent most of their lives out in the sun with no protection would end up getting a diagnosis of melanoma so why did a young girl have this diagnosis?
Although pediatric melanoma is rare (only accounting for about 2% of childhood cancers) we need to be aware that it is a possibility. There has even been melanoma found in newborns leading researchers to believe there may be some sort of genetic factor as well. Of course those with fair skin, red or blonde hair, blue eyes are at the greatest risk of developing melanoma. This is because there is less pigment to the skin. That pigment is like a physical defense that helps protect your DNA from UV rays so getting a tan is quite literally a damage response from the body attempting to protect itself from the sun. UV rays damage DNA in the melanocyte (the cell that gives skin its color) causing it to go haywire.
Melanoma cases in teens is on the rise as well (about 2% each year). It is believed that the reason for this is the use tanning beds. They pose the greatest risk because the UV rays don’t have time to get filtered or dissipate at all. It’s like getting years and years of sun exposure in just a few minutes.
Melanoma is the only form of skin cancer that can spread to every part of the body. It is the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer so it is absolutely imperative that you take warning signs seriously, no matter the age of the person.
When inspecting skin irregularities keep the ABC’s in mind:
- Asymmetry: Is one side of the mole different than the other?
- Border irregularity: Are the edges ragged or irregular?
- Color variation: Is the mole getting darker? Is part of it changing color or does it contain several colors?
- Diameter: Is the mole bigger than ¼ inch?
- Evolution: Is the mole growing in width or height?
- Feeling: Has the sensation around a mole or spot changed?
If you notice any of these signs, see a dermatologist ASAP.