Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer throughout the world. While less common among children, melanoma still accounts for roughly 3% of all cases of pediatric skin cancer. Because most forms of skin cancer develop due to ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun, it's important to keep your child in the shade and to apply sunscreen daily. You should also talk with a pediatrician at a medical facility like the Manuel Allergy Center about learning to perform skin checks at home.
What to Check
While you should certainly check your child from head to toe at least once a month, it's particularly important to regularly look over areas that get the most sun exposure. Not only does this include their arms, hands, back, and shoulders, but it even involves checking the top of their head. If your little one has a full head of hair, you're probably going to notice that your pediatrician carefully parts their hair in multiple areas to evaluate their scalp. This is something you should be doing at home while washing and brushing their hair. If your child wears nail polish, make sure you check their nail beds between polish changes for signs of abnormal skin growths. To help your pediatrician check your child's fingers and toes, remove nail polish before exams, too.
How It Looks
It can be tough to tell when moles or freckles are abnormal to the untrained eye. This is why it's important to check your little one regularly—it's changes that can be worrisome. Look for changes in mole shape, size, or color. Or if your child seems to be scratching or picking at a mole, it could be developing abnormally. Some growths appear shiny or crusty, almost like scabs, even though your child didn't have an injury. These issues don't necessarily mean the abnormality is cancerous, but to be safe, you should always schedule a visit with your child's pediatrician if you notice any new skin changes.
Importance of Early Intervention
Since childhood melanoma is misdiagnosed or overlooked up to 40% of the time, treatment doesn't always start as early as it should. Even if you or your pediatrician do spot an abnormal growth on your child, if it's caught early enough, your little one might just need a quick in-office procedure to remove the affected skin tissue. If skin cancer progresses, it can turn into a more complex pediatric procedure that could involve removing some of your child's lymph nodes.