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Melanoma is a skin cancer that can spread throughout the body. Early detection of melanoma can prevent the cancer from spreading. The rate of melanoma in children and teens is growing, in part due to sun exposure and tanning in childhood.
Skin cancer is a very preventable disease. You can protect your child from the sun by using sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. Moles (nevi) are clusters of skin cells called melanocytes. These cells carry the pigment that gives our skin its color. Pay attention to any moles on your child’s body and watch for changes in their size, shape and color.
When melanocytes are damaged by ultraviolet light from the sun, they can start to function abnormally. The cells quickly multiply, form tumors and damage surrounding tissue.
A pediatric dermatologist should check moles that change in size, shape or color.
Symptoms of melanoma include moles that look different than they used to. You can follow the ABCDE rule when checking moles:
A pediatric dermatologist should check moles that show any of the changes above or moles that itch or bleed right away. Sometimes normal moles in childhood change as children grow. A pediatric dermatologist can help determine if the changes you see are normal or if they are worrisome.
Melanomas most commonly appear:
If your child shows signs of melanoma or changing moles or congenital nevi (moles present at birth), a pediatric dermatologist will perform the following exams and tests to make a diagnosis:
Treatments for suspected melanoma include:
Visit the trusted websites below to learn more about melanoma and mole screening.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Melanoma Research Foundation is committed to finding better treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma. Learn more about pediatric melanoma on the foundation's website.
This resource from the American Academy of Dermatology shares information about moles, including what parents should know about moles in children.
Patients at Riley at IU Health may be eligible to participate in clinical trials for melanoma at the Indiana University Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Ask your child's doctor for more information about how to access current trials.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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