We all know that skin cancer is a very real, scary threat and that we should slather on sunscreen each day to prevent it. But did you know that just one or more blistering sunburns during childhood or adolescence more than doubles an individual’s risk of developing melanoma later in life? Here’s a couple more important statistics to note:
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, ranks as the 7th most common cancer in our nation.
- Melanoma is the most common cancer amongst 25-29 year-olds and the second most common cancer amongst 15-29 year-olds.
- Regular daily use of sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of melanoma by 50%.
As a parent, here’s what you need to look for with birthmarks, moles and freckles to keep your children healthy and skin cancer-free.
Why care about your birthmarks, moles, and freckles? While melanomas show up as new marks most of the time, in about one-third of cases, melanomas show up within birthmarks, moles or freckles.
Birthmarks are moles that we are born with or appear right after birth. Birthmarks are characterized into three different sizes: small (think small spot – a tenth of an inch or so), medium (nearly an inch in size) and large (greater than an inch). Large birthmarks have an increased risk of melanoma, and so it is recommended that you have large birthmarks removed. If your child has a birthmark, show it to your pediatrician and/or dermatologist for further evaluation and recommendations.
We typically develop moles from six months of age until about age 30. The average person has between 6 and 20 moles. A person has increased melanoma risk with a mole count of greater than 50. Everyone tends to develop one to three “families” of moles. Families are simply groups of moles that appear similar to each other. Parents and doctors can use what’s called the “ugly duckling” sign to identify unusual moles. This simply means look for moles that appear different from the others. After age 30, we don’t typically develop new moles. Anyone over 30 who develops a new “ugly duckling” mole should be seen by a dermatologist.
In contrast, freckles are the light brown small patches that develop as a result of exposure to sun’s ultraviolet light. So, if you start to see freckles on your child’s cheeks, slather on more sunscreen for sun protection!
Most importantly, familiarize yourself with the ABCDE’s of melanoma. These are the tell-tale signs that something is amiss. If you see moles with any of these warning signs, see your dermatologist.
- A – Asymmetry. Be suspicious of moles that are asymmetric (meaning you can’t draw a line down the middle and match up both sides)
- B – Borders. Be suspicious of moles with fuzzy or ill-defined borders.
- C – Color. Be suspicious of moles with varying color throughout or two-toned moles.
- D – Diameter. Be suspicious of larger moles, greater that 6mm in diameter.
- E – Evolving. Be suspicious of moles that are changing. Moles should just exist. If any mole changes, make note and be suspicious.
We can help to keep our children – and ourselves – safe from skin cancer by keeping a watchful eye on our birthmarks, moles and freckles.
~ The Baby Pibu™ Team