In 2013, a study published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that pediatric melanoma rates are rising in the United States, particularly in the age group of 15-19 years, by approximately 2% each year. The National Cancer Institute estimates that approximately 500 children in America are diagnosed each year. Did you know that melanoma in children and teens looks different than it does for adults and grows faster? If caught early there is a good chance of survival, but if left to spread it can be deadly.
What could cause childhood Melanoma?
- Sun sensitivity disorders
- Family history of melanoma or skin cancer
- Mom-to-infant transmission
- Tanning bed use (teens 14-18 years old)
Sometimes children can develop melanoma or skin cancer because they exhibit some of the high risk factors; a large number of moles, family history, fair-skinned, and blue eyed. As with most illnesses sometimes there is no reason at all. No matter the cause, early detection is important. Children (as well as adults) should have a yearly Dermatologist appointment with a Board-Certified Dermatologist . If there is a family history of melanoma and atypical moles then there should be examination every 3 to 6 months. Children in these families should have their first exam by the age of 10.
Preparing your child for their first Dermatologist appointment is an important event. There will be a lot of questions and possibly some hesitation. Below are ways you can make each Dermatology appointment a success!
Treat a Dermatologist appointment like a yearly Pediatrician wellness check-up.
Steps to a successful Dermatologist appointment:
- Talk with your child about who a Dermatologist is; let them know that a Dermatologist is a doctor who knows a lot about skin and how to keep our skin healthy.
- If you don’t have a Dermatologist the American Academy of Dermatology provides a quick and easy Derm Finder.
- When contacting your doctor to arrange a total body skin examination, you should request an appropriate amount of time for the appointment with the scheduler.
- At the time of arrival, when placed in the room, and when first greeting the doctor, you should make your desire for a total body skin examination known, including a request for a gown if one is not provided.
- During a skin cancer check-up or “screening,” your doctor will probably discuss medical history and inspect your child’s skin from head to toe-even areas that don’t get any sun. If your doctor performs only a waist-up exam, inform him/her that you would like a complete skin exam.
- Your doctor will record the location, size, and color of any moles.
- If a mole looks unusual, he/she may arrange for a biopsy.
Throughout this whole process you (as a parent) have the option to be present during the appointment, ask questions and to voice your concern.
Studies have shown that a Dermatologist’s instructions may help young people understand that sun exposure and tanning harms the skin. The message of sun safe habits should begin early and the message should be frequent.
In the comments, let us know how your child’s Dermatology appointment goes! If you have a tip to share with other parents we would love to hear from you.