As warmer weather approaches, pediatric skin cancer scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are alerting parents of genetic research showing that sun damage contributes to melanoma in children and adolescents as well as adults.
The research underscores the need for precautionary measures to help avoid extreme sun exposure for children, including the implementation of routine prevention measures.
“Parents should keep in mind some simple and effective tips to best protect children from the harmful effects of the sun this summer,” said Alberto Pappo, M.D., director of the St. Jude Solid Tumor Division.
“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age,” Pappo said. “Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults. And although rare, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in younger patients and affects mostly teenagers. Children are not immune from extreme sun damage; parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a leader in pediatric melanoma research and treatment. Each year, St. Jude provides treatment and second opinions for patients with pediatric melanoma around the country and beyond. The St. Jude Pediatric and Adolescent Melanoma Referral Clinic brings patients and families to St. Jude each year for two days of expert consultation, as well as medical examinations by leading specialists, educational seminars and an introduction to melanoma-related resources.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because it often spreads to other parts of the body. Melanoma gets its name from melanocytes, skin cells that produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its color.
- About 76,700 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States each year.
- About 7 percent of cancers in children 15 to 19 years of age are melanomas. Melanoma is most common in people of Caucasian descent, occurring five times more often than in Hispanics and 20 times more often than in African Americans.
- Childhood melanoma may not fit into the same routine diagnosis symptoms as adults. Instead, parents should look for the following:
- A mole that changes, grows or doesn’t go away
- An odd-shaped or large mole
- A pale-colored or red bump
- A mole or bump that itches or bleeds
For more information on melanoma, visit the St. Jude Melanoma Clinic’s fact sheet