Summer Skin Cancer Awareness

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As Summer Approaches, Best Ways to Protect Children from Extreme Sun Exposure

As the summer season approaches, pediatric skin cancer scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are alerting parents of genetic research showing that sun damage contributes to melanoma in children and adolescents as well as adults.  The research underscores the need for precautionary measures necessary to avoid extreme sun exposure for children, including the implementation of routine prevention measures.

Dr. Alberto Pappo, director of the Solid Tumor Division at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says there are important things for parents to keep in mind this summer, including simple and effective tips to best protect children from the harmful effects of the sun.

“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age.  Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults.   And although rare, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in younger patients and affects mostly teenagers,” said Dr. Pappo.  “Children are not immune from extreme sun damage and parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a leader in pediatric melanoma research and treatment.  Each year, St. Jude provides treatment and second opinions for patients with pediatric melanoma around the country and beyond.  Each year, the St. Jude Pediatric and Adolescent Melanoma Referral Clinic brings patients and families to St. Jude for two days of expert consultation, as well as medical examinations by leading specialists, educational seminars and an introduction to melanoma-related resources.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because it often spreads to other parts of the body. Melanoma gets its name from melanocytes—skin cells that produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its color.  Other facts about melanoma, include:

  • About 76,700 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
  • About 7 percent of cancers in children 15 to 19 years of age are melanomas. Melanoma is most common in people of Caucasian descent, occurring five times more often than in Hispanics and 20 times more often than in African Americans.
  • Childhood melanoma may not fit into the same routine diagnosis symptoms as adults, instead parents should look for the following:
    • A mole that changes, grows or doesn’t go away
    • An odd-shaped or large mole
    • A pale-colored or red bump
    • A mole or bump that itches or bleeds

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude is ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.