Cancer is rare in children, 1% of all cases. Skin cancers are a small percentage of this and run in similar proportions, childhood melanoma makes up about 1% of all melanoma cases.
Skin cancer later in life can still have a foundation in earlier years and managing exposure to the sun in children is vital. Being aware of risk factors which can bring childhood skin cancer is equally useful, such as family history, or a significant number of moles.
Childhood skin cancer which does occur is higher in teenagers, fairly balanced between boys and girls. Still a low incidence rate, yet there are times when symptoms should be carefully investigated.
Signs Of Skin Cancer
Children can suffer from squamous, or basal cell carcinoma. You may see unusual, or irregular bumps, or rough scaly areas, or spots that bleed, appear to heal, then recur.
The oddity with children’s skin cancer is that whilst we are considering a rarity, the most serious form known as paediatric melanoma is more prevalent. This is generally related to moles, fresh growths as much as pre-existing.
New moles emerge during childhood, or adolescence and as a child grows, so will the mole. This may also become darker, or lighter quite naturally, although certain changes deserve attention.
A mole which is changing quickly, or appears different from a child’s other moles can be an issue. Or one that is dome shaped, has an irregular border, or varying colours. Melanomas in children can lack colour, appear pale red, pink, almost skin toned.
Cancerous moles can also bleed without reason, or develop into open sores. These symptoms and subtle changes picked up during paediatric skin cancer screening warrant investigation by a specialist.
Diagnosis & Treatment
A consultant dermatologist will carry out a thorough assessment, with access to all the scientific equipment used for adults and the sensitivity a child deserves.
Family and personal medical history will be considered. This could range from a familial incidence of melanoma, to past radiation therapy, genetic conditions, lowered immunity, or early childhood sunburn.
Less obvious symptoms can also be analysed. A dark spot under a fingernail which is not due to trauma, a large number of moles, or moles which are not obviously cancerous in appearance, yet could be.
Specialist knowledge often allows cases to be diagnosed without a biopsy. Where this is needed, we always try to use a virtual biopsy using confocal laser microscopy, rather than surgical intrusion.
Treatment will again follow much the same path as in adults. From a topical cream in minor cases, to modern lasers, to surgical removal, which can be the best long term solution.
You are welcome to see an in depth section on skin cancer treatment, which offers full detail on the support our London clinic provides.
Care For Young Patients
As a paediatric dermatologist, Skin Care Network see a range of conditions in children, caused by, or worsened by over exposure to the sun.
Only a small number are any form of skin cancer. They naturally require detailed investigation, although others which are thankfully not cancerous warrant attention.
A few may have the potential to bring more serious conditions later in life and when treating children, the future is our priority.
Having their skin checked, especially moles, is part of that, helping to create a lifelong habit. If we can assist with the future, or current concerns, please get in touch.