Sun Scare: Kids With Melanoma - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Sun Scare: Kids With Melanoma

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COLUMBUS, OH (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Skin cancer among kids is on the rise. It's often caused by too much sun or indoor tanning beds. Doctors said cases are increasing at an alarming rate. What you think is a harmless mole or freckle on your child could be deadly.

"I had a mole right here on my collarbone," Valerie Braaten told Ivanhoe.

"It wasn't scary, it wasn't black, it wasn't irregular and it wasn't very large," Valerie's mom, Mim Braaten, told Ivanhoe.

"I thought I had the mole my whole life," Valerie said.

But Valerie's mole wasn't a birthmark. In fact, it wasn't in her sixth grade picture. But in her freshman photo, there it was.

"And they told us that the mole was malignant melanoma stage two," Valerie explained.

Dr. Mark Ranalli M.D., at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says he's seen a two to three percent increase nationally in cases of kids with skin cancer.

"That increase is at a rate that is actually greater than the rate of increase in any other malignancy that we currently treat," Dr. Ranalli told Ivanhoe.

Keeping kids away from tanning beds and limiting sun exposure can protect them from melanoma, but a recent survey of 360 eighth-graders found only 25 percent used sunscreen if they were outside for more than six hours. Forty percent of them went outside just to get a tan.

"The problem is a tan is also a sign of injury to the skin," Dr. Ranalli explained.

He said all it takes is three severe sunburns before the age of 20 to significantly increase the risk of melanoma. He urges parents to keep an eye on any moles or freckles, and to watch out for the ABCs of the disease: asymmetry, borders, color, diameter and evolution.

"So they took out the cancer that had spread here," Valerie explained.

Valerie's melanoma was caught early because her friends noticed the mole was growing. Today, she's cancer-free and is vigilant about protecting her skin.

"I think for the rest of my life I'll be going to the dermatologist regularly," Valerie concluded.

Some states are taking action to curb skin cancer in kids. California recently became the first state to ban children under 18 from using tanning beds. In North Carolina, the Dermatology Association is trying to re-introduce a bill that would require kids under 18 to have a doctor's prescription to use tanning beds.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND: Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can affect the skin as well as organs and bones. It is commonly caused by too much sun exposure to skin cells, making them abnormal. The abnormal cells then begin to grow exponentially and attack tissue surrounding them. If a patient has family history of melanoma or abnormal (or atypical) moles, then their likelihood of developing the disease increases. Atypical moles may fade into the skin and have a flat part that is level with the skin. It may be they may look rough and "pebbly," smooth or slightly scaly. The disease is most common in adults, but according to the National Cancer Institute, 500 children are diagnosed with melanoma every year and that number continues to rise. (Source: www.webmd.com).

KNOW THE BASICS RISK FACTORS: Children who have fair skin, blonde or red hair, freckles, or family history of melanoma are at a higher risk. Also most children who develop the disease young are likely to have a reoccurrence later in life. Some signs to watch out for include: a wart-like spot, typically non-pigmented or a pinkish color, a bump that itches and bleeds, odd-looking moles, especially large ones, an amelanotic lesion – meaning they aren't black or darkly pigmented like many adult melanomas, and moles that look completely different from a child's other moles.

Remember the A, B, C's of melanoma disease: Asymmetry: odd-shaped lesions. Borders: rough/jagged edges, Color: darker/pigment edges. Diameter-watch for growth and evolution: overall changes. (Source: www.mdanderson.org).

PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM MELANOMA: Studies show your risk of melanoma increases by 75% if you start using artificial tanning before you are 30 years old. Every doctor will tell you to limit your child's exposure to ultraviolet radiation in order to protect them from developing melanoma, but it is not that simple. The American Academy of Dermatology conducted a study involving 3,800 Caucasian girls and women between 14 and 22 that shows 81% had tanned outdoors either frequently or occasionally in the past year, 65.5% of respondents said they think people look more attractive with a tan and indoor tanners were four times as likely to say their mothers used a tanning bed, compared to outdoor tanners. A healthy alternative would be spray tans, but 86% of respondents said they had not resorted to spray tans in the past year. Another recent survey shows that 116 U.S. cities has an average of 42 tanning salons per city, meaning tanning salons are more prevalent than Starbucks or McDonald's! If trends do not change, the American Academy of Dermatology predicts that one in five Americans could develop skin cancer in their lifetime (Source: www.webmd.com).

SOME GOOD NEWS: A few states are taking action to help stop skin cancer in children. California recently passed a bill to ban children under 18 from using tanning beds. The American Academy of Pediatrics consisting of more than 30,000 members are trying to reintroduce a bill to ban children under 18 from using tanning beds in all states.In North Carolina, the Dermatology Association is trying to pass a bill that will require children under 18 to have a doctor's prescription to use tanning beds (Source: www.reuters.com).

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Mark A. Ranalli, M.D.
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Mark.ranalli@nationchildrens.org

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