At What Age Should my Child go Through a Skin Cancer Exam?
Although skin cancer is a disease that’s often associated with decades of sun exposure, even children should be checked to make sure they don’t have suspicious moles or growths. In this blog, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Darel Pruett of Pruett Dermatology in Islamorada and Key West, FL explains at what age your child should get a skin care exam:
Why are skin cancer exams important for children?
Skin cancer exams can detect moles or growths that are cancerous or may become cancerous. Some children are born with congenital moles that can pose a risk of skin cancer. It’s recommended that parents have a dermatologist examine any growths as soon as you find them.
However, skin cancer is rare in children who haven’t yet experienced puberty. Some children, however, have an increased risk of melanoma if they have a family history of the disease, have had multiple sunburns or have a lot of moles.
What should you check for?
You should be checking not just the obvious places but also the scalp, feet and toes. Look for any signs of the following:
- Asymmetry – Do the left and right sides of the mole look different?
- Border – Are its edges blurry?
- Color – Has the mole changed color and started to look lighter or darker? Does it have different colors within the same mole?
- Diameter – Is it larger than a pencil-top eraser?
- Elevation – Does it have a raised surface?
In addition, look for a mole that appears different from other ones your child has. And if it bleeds easily or won’t heal, that’s also a strong sign it needs to be checked.
What happens during the exam?
The exam probably will take just a few minutes, but the more moles your child has, the longer it will take. If you’ve spotted any moles or growths on your child, make sure to point them out to the dermatologist. He or she will thoroughly examine your child’s skin, checking moles and other growths. If the doctor thinks any of them look suspicious, a small tissue sample may be taken for testing (biopsy).
The doctor can also help you and your child, once he or she is old enough, learn how to do a proper skin self-exam, teaching you where to look and what to look for.
As your child has subsequent exams, the doctor can also look for any signs of changes or any new moles or growths to see if they’re a cause for concern.
What can parents do at home to prevent their children from getting skin cancer or for early detection?
Parents should do the following:
- Conduct monthly at-home exams and have a dermatologist check moles or growths.
- Help your baby avoid the sun for the first six months.
- Use sunscreen on your child every day, reapplying it every two hours or after sweating or swimming. It should have an SPF of at least 30 and be applied 15 to 20 minutes before your child goes outside.
- Make sure to use enough sunscreen to generously coat exposed skin.
- Apply a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher on your child’s lips.
If your child has moles or other growths, make an appointment today with Pruett Dermatology in Islamorada and Key West, FL. Dr. Pruett is a board-certified skin doctor and dermatologic surgeon who has served the community for 25 years. Our practice creates a warm, welcoming environment that will make both you and your child feel comfortable.