Do you wonder how to Protect Your Kids & Teens From Melanoma? This post is an effort to help to raise your awareness of how to protect yourself and your family from Melanoma.
Young people don’t have very many melanoma cases. However, this dreaded skin cancer usually starts when you are young.
Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. It is also one of the easiest to sneak up on you. Often melanoma is the hardest to spot. You must be aware and alert to know and realize that you have skin cancer growing on or in your body. Early prevention offers the highest recovery rate.
All skin cancer is sneaky, but melanoma often grows on areas of your body that do not get exposed to the sun very much, or at all. This allows this cancer to grow and cause serious problems while you are unaware of it being there.
Melanoma is usually thought of as an adult skin cancer issue. However, melanoma accounts for about 1% of all cancers in children under the age of 15 years old.
Melanoma occurs more often in the older age groups, who are in the 15 to 19-year-old group. Here we have about 7% of cancers in adolescents.
While 7% may not seem like a very high risk at all, remember this is one of the cancers that can be avoided! Your kids will not have to worry at all about skin cancers of any kind if they are protected from too much sun.
Repeated Sun Exposure Can Cause Skin Cancer Activity
Your sun exposures are what normally starts all skin cancers growing. Remember, Cancer is uncontrolled cell growth. So skin cancer is skin cells growing outside of normal patterns.
Something has occurred to cause the cells to lose their original DNA growth pattern. They are reproducing abnormally. Awareness can help protect your kids and teens from melanoma.
Skin cancer that starts on the surface of your skin like basal cell skin cancer, or squamous cell cancer is cancer dealing with surface skin cells.
Melanoma skin cancer is usually under the surface a bit and is in a tumor form. Melanoma also occurs when the cells in the deeper layers are trying to protect your body from the sun.
Some people just react differently. We have little control over how our bodies react. The way our bodies handle the sun is genetic. There may be little reaction to the sun’s rays for a while, then all of a sudden, the body has skin cancers all over. And quickly.
General awareness of the danger of too much sun exposure is your number one protection. Before you are overexposed and not after the fact. After being overexposed it is too late.
Because full-blown developed melanoma doesn’t show up in children and teens very often, you as a parent have very little warning about knowing what to watch for.
As there are only about 300 reported cases in this age group every year in the US, there is little chance of learning about this skin condition from your peers. However, this cancer has often spread by the time it is found. Remember, cancer is uncontrolled growth. It isn’t sitting around waiting for you to realize something is going on.
Skin cancer reports are slow to come in as the disease is normally thought of as a condition of aging. When we get older is when it shows up, not when it starts.
Awareness is the difference between a developed cancer requiring surgery, sometimes reconstruction or other ongoing treatments, and earlier less invasive treatment.
If melanoma is diagnosed earlier in the life of the patient, this will allow a different approach to treatment and less death. Melanoma is still the most deadly of skin cancers.
Melanoma is usually not noticeable until it grows to be a life-threating situation.
It is often not found until it has a deep hold on your body. Obviously, this happens more often in an older person. Younger people have not had so long to develop the condition.
Don’t let the low risk cause you to lower your guard for protecting your skin.
Do you know your risk of melanoma?
Risk Factors of Melanoma
There are certain factors that do increase the risk of melanoma.
These factors include having fair skin that burns easily. As well as certain skin conditions. Then there is a family history of melanoma and/or unusual moles to consider. Do you have a history of sun exposure or sunburns?
Melanoma is becoming more common in adolescents due to lifestyle choices by families as well as the kids themselves.
- Your skin color: If you have darker skin, you are less likely to develop melanoma. Those who have fair skin, light or red hair, light-colored eyes, and tend to sunburn easily are putting themselves at higher risk when they overexpose their skin to too much sun.
- You have some skin conditions: If you are born with large dark spots on your skin called melanocytic nevi, you are more likely to develop melanoma.
- Your family history: Having a family history of melanoma or unusual moles increases your risk of melanoma.
- What about your Ultraviolet Ray exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage the DNA of your skin cells. Sunlight is the main source of UV exposure. Tanning beds are another source of UV radiation. Exposure to either the sun or the use of tanning beds leaves you with a significant risk factor for melanoma.
- Have you had a sunburn or several: If you have a history of blistering sunburns, you are more likely to develop melanoma.
- Have you had radiation therapy? Or are you a prior cancer patient? Patients who have treatment with radiation therapy have higher risks of developing melanoma at some point in the future.
- Us your immune system weaker? If you have low immunity due to serious illness or transplant? This can be cause for concern for an increased risk for melanoma.
Below you will find a brief discussion about the signs of melanoma including changes to your child’s or teen’s skin including:
- Be suspicious of a mole or bump on the skin that grows in size or changes shape, especially if changes occur in a short period of time
- Does your youngster have an irregular-shaped mole or one that is large in size? (large in relation to the others on his or her body)
- What about a pale or red colored bump on the skin
- A mole or bump that itches or bleeds Other information
We as parents get a great deal of our “awareness” from other parents. From playschool to high school there is a parent who has been there. A Mom or Dad around who has seen most of what we are dealing with before.
There are recommendations for a brand of shoe, and a tutor for whatever is needed. They have been there. Good suggestions come from this experience. However, with melanoma skin cancer, there is not so much knowledge to share. That is why we have to study and read for ourselves.
How You Can Increase Awareness
As you skim through this post, please store in your mind the basics. Know that you are one of the few who have read anything about this little-known, but deadly form of skin cancer.
Will your child be one of the 300 reported melanoma skin cancer cases this year?
- The light colors of hair and skin.
- Add freckles, the sign of at least one excess sun exposure.
These young people need to use extra caution and you as an aware adult can help them learn to protect themselves. Share some awareness with them.
Most Skin Cancer Causing Sun Exposures Occur Before You Child Is 20
Consider how little was known before you were born about skin cancer. Your parents were unaware of how overexposure would affect you as an adult. I am a card-carrying member of the parenthood group. My kids still roll their eyes as I try to help them with their kids’ sun exposure. They think I am just having “old people” worries.
They don’t fully appreciate the fact that their present visits to the dermatologist might not have had to happen. Their Mom just didn’t know.
Their kids are young and healthy. They as parents work hard to make sure my grandkids have oppurtunities to do things and feed them healthy diets. They know how important it is that they wear helmets for many active sports.
Sun danger awareness? Not so much.
Warning: Is Your Child Red-Headed or Blonde?
Does your child have red hair? Maybe blonde-headed? What about fair-skinned? Are there any freckles on your child?
Yes, all these things make them more likely to have more oppurtunities for too much sun. Blue eyes also raise the caution flag for too much sun.
Getting too much sun is a danger for all kids. Even though they have darker skin tones. They are young. Their skin is still maturing. Most skin cancer will form later in life. It almost seems over the top to be concerned now.
When overexposure to the sun involves sunburn, this can become a medical emergency without some care. Do you know when the situation gets dangerous?
What is the sun protection plan for your family? Are you using sun blocking clothing to protect them from the sun? Sunscreen can help, but your child will need to wear a sun hat, sunglasses, and a loose-fitting long sleeve shirt of tightly-woven fabric to protect their skin.
Will You Ignore Your Child’s Time In The Sun?
However, if your child is starting to be too heavy, you are quick to start helping by making some diet changes and making more opportunities for more exercise. You know the dangers of too much weight for your child.
Another danger is if your child loves being outdoors. Some kids just love being outside. They are not concerned about the sun that is too strong for their developing skin.
Allowing your kids to set themselves up early for skin cancer because of too much sun is also dangerous. Skin Cancer may not show up until they are in their 50s. Just like diabetes is often a problem for those who are too heavy to show up later. You can help your child avoid the adult problems of too much sun as kids.
Skin Cancer Is The Result Of Lifestyle
Skin Cancer is almost always a lifestyle problem. Your parents just didn’t know. Everyone thought that skin cancer was only an old person’s condition. We did not know that simply wearing sun blocking clothing, using sunscreen, and avoiding the hottest of the sun hours would make any difference.
Thinking of my own family is why I have a concern about awareness in families. Protect your kids & teens from melanoma. I didn’t know about this problem when my kids were young. I didn’t help them know how to be sun aware.
We were unaware of who was most suspectable of sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer. With the research now available we know without a doubt that we are allowing our kids to live dangerously when we don’t help them learn about safety and sun exposure.
There is no Free Card for Darker Toned Skin
When darker tones of skin have too much sun, it is often hard to be aware of what has happened. Just because the damage is not visible, it is still occurring.
Your kids that have darker skin tones should be made aware just as the lighter-toned skin are. Just because they don’t blister and peel does not mean they are not damaging their skin.
With darker-toned skin, Melanoma is harder to see. Just because you are unaware does not mean you can safely skip visual skin exams. Anything that is different should be monitored, and maybe checked by a dermatologist. Getting a baseline for the future.
We have had so many basal cell skin cancer spots removed in our family. My kids have had more than me. They were allowed to be in the sun so much. Living in eastern New Mexico for most of their time after birth, and before twenty years old they were overexposed to the sun’s hot rays way too often.
We as a family love waterskiing. They love most anything outdoors. Bicycles, baseball, softball, and track. So many hours outside. Outside in Eastern New Mexico means no shade and few trees.
They are paying dearly for the hours in the sun with the bi-annual visits to the dermatologist and the dollars for their skincare. I am so sorry, I did not know.
Remember these basics
With sun blocking clothing the grandkids should fare better. With a broad-brimmed hat. A long-sleeved shirt. Sunglasses. Broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher. Those are the basics of sun blocking.
Limit time out in the direct sun’s rays during the hotter times of the day. For us here in Central Texas that is from 10 AM until 4 PM. Even with sun blocking clothing and a hat and sunglasses, you will be exposing yourself to the chance of too much sun should you be out during these hours.
Learn the basics of how to protect your kids & teens from Melanoma.
Darker Skin Tones
One more time here, for those who have darker tones of skin. Just because your child has darker skin tones, he is not immune to skin cancer.
The darker tone of skin usually doesn’t show excess sun exposure because the skin is a darker tone. Especially in children, the damage is starting and you are often unaware.
Any time you are exposing your skin to the sun, you are setting yourself up for skin cancer later in life. Skin cancer is the result of too many times getting too much sun. Some may develop skin cancer quickly. Some may require years for it to show up.
When you realize this fact, you will understand why we need to stay aware of the risk of Melanoma for our Kids and Teens.
Sami’s Take On Protect Your Kids And Teens From Melanoma
We do know a lot about melanoma now. While it doesn’t happen very often, it does happen and can be deadly. We have known people who did not survive melanoma.
The cells that make melanoma start growing when the sun causes your skin to start protecting itself. There is not a switch you hear a click, and know to watch your skin.
Early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma are very important. How will you make sure that you are protecting your skin?
Important To Me To Share
With melanoma, there is usually Stage I or II (melanoma in the skin only), Stage III (melanoma has spread to lymph nodes), or Stage IV (metastatic melanoma). (This is important because this is how the Doctor will talk about the melanoma and classify it)
Some factors that determine which melanoma stage include:
- The tumor thickness or how deep melanoma is found in your skin?
- Has the tumor cracked or broken through the top layer of your skin? (ulcerated)
- Has the tumor spread to lymph nodes?
- Is the tumor already spreading to other parts of the body?
Always, be alert and protect yourself from too much sun. Remember to use your sun blocking clothing and sunscreen.
Teach your family to protect themselves from the sun.
How will you improve your family’s sun safety?