Skin cancer in children is on the rise

Research shows that skin cancer in children and teens is increasing every year, but luckily it's still very rare.

  • Melanoma is the most common skin cancer in children

  • 1250 cases of pediatric melanoma were recorded between 1973 and 2001

  • Approximately 500 cases are diagnosed each year. (2002)

  • Patients under the age of 20, represent 1% of all new melanoma cases

  • Pediatric Melanoma accounts for about 8% of all cancers seen in children age 15 – 19 years

  • Diagnosis increased 1.7% per year between 1975 – 2006 (According to the National Cancer Institute)

    More statistics on skin cancer:


    Unfortunately, because parents and many pediatricians don’t expect to find melanoma in children, it often goes undetected until it’s more developed.

    Melanoma lesions in children sometimes look different from those found in adults and for this reason it’s often misdiagnosed. In adults, melanoma often looks like a dark mole with uneven borders. However, many children have light-colored lesions with well defined borders. Using the

    ABDCE Rule for detecting skin cancer is still the best way to spot anything abnormal.

    Look for :

    Parents should be on the look out for a few potential signs:

    • A sudden increase in the size of a mole or birthmark
    • Bleeding or itching of a skin growth
    • Change of color of a mole or birthmark

    Risk factors:

    Children have a greater risk factor for skin cancer if:

    • There is a family history of melanoma
    • If they are fair skinned or freckly easily
    • If they have several moles (more than 50)
    • If they have a giant birthmark (mole)
    • History of blistering sunburns
    • Excessive sun exposure
    • Use of tanning beds
    • Children with impaired immune systems
    • Some medications can increase a person’s sun sensitivity, (such as antibiotics and acne medications)
    • Children who have undergone any chemotherapy

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    Because of the rarity of skin cancer in children, pediatric melanoma tends to be deeper at diagnosis. With the lack of information pertaining specifically to melanoma in children, it is treated in the same way as physicians treat adults. If you have specific concerns, you should consult with a pediatric dermatologist. Learn about common melanoma treatment options here.

    The good news is that, just as in adults, melanoma is very treatable in children and teens, especially if caught early. The overall 5 year survival rate of pediatric melanoma is 94%.


    • Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 – Always
    • Cover-up with clothing, hats and sunglasses when in the sun
    • Seek shade during the midday sun
    • Avoid Tanning beds

    Wearing Rash Guards is great way to know your kids are covered up.

    The best defense against the rise in skin cancer in children is educating parents, teachers about sun-protection for children.

    Stay alive and well with