Skin cancer doesn't just pose a problem for adults; it can also be quite a danger for kids. And with most of our children roaming the beaches and hitting the pools come summer; the potential risks of skin cancer, like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are even more prevalent. While prevention is really the best approach to skin cancer, you should also become accustom with the hallmarks of skin cancer, which begs the question of what to look for.
The first and foremost sign of skin cancer in kids would be a change in the shape, size or color of a skin growth, which would include both moles and birthmarks. The easiest method of noting these changes is to use something called the "ABCD rule," which stands for asymmetry, border, color and diameter. What you'll need to look for is a change in a mole or birthmark where one half of the blemish does not match or correspond with the other half (asymmetry). You should also note if the edges of this blemish become blurred or ragged (border), if there is a change in the color or spread of the color (color) and if the blemish has grown or surfaced (diameter).
While skin cancer will generally develop in "unmarked" areas of the body, moles do pose a potential of becoming cancerous. When looking at a mole for signs of skin cancer in kids, look for a change in the elevation of the growth, a redness to the surrounding skin, a scaling or crusting of the mole itself, a bleeding and even a softening of the blemish. Sometime a mole may also become itchy, burn or become tender to the touch.
Another warning sign of skin cancer in kids would be the presences of moles or skin growths that weren't originally there. Sounds obvious, but these blemishes will typically present themselves on the upper back in boys and on the legs in girls. While this may be the norm, it doesn't mean that boys and girls won't develop skin cancer on other areas of the body. Generally, anywhere the UV rays can touch holds the potential when not properly protected by sunscreen.
Besides the more obvious signs of skin cancer in kids (as well as teens and adults), there are also less obvious symptoms that can be confused with other health-related issues. Some people may develop lumps under the skin, encounter swollen lymph nodes and experience weight loss. They may also complain of headaches and frequent cough. Some children may actually have seizures. You may also notice a discoloration under the nail of a toe or finger. All of these could be signs of skin cancer, so if you were to witness this in a child, contact your doctor immediately. Early detection is always the best.
Really, the best way to prevent skin cancer in kids is to limit their sun exposure, especially during peak hours, which are generally between 10 AM and 4 PM. When your kids are out in the sun, make sure that they are sporting protective clothing, like hats and t-shirts, or sun block with an SPF of no less than 15.