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Childhood Melanoma Prevention and Screening

Childhood Melanoma Screening

Screening tests may be able to find certain types of cancer if a person is at risk but does not have symptoms. Early detection of melanoma greatly increases the odds of successful treatment.

Screening for melanoma starts at home. Parents should be aware of all moles that their children may have so that they will notice any changes or new moles. Use the ABCDE's of skin cancer to determine if your child's moles are suspicious in nature.

Read more about MD Anderson’s skin cancer screening guidelines.

Melanoma Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting melanoma is a risk factor.

Sun damage, especially a history of peeling sunburns, is the main risk factor for melanoma. Artificial sunlight from tanning beds causes the same risk for melanoma as natural sunlight.

Other risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Fair complexion: People with blond or red hair, light skin, blue eyes and a tendency to sunburn are at increased risk.
  • Moles (nevi): Having a lot of benign (non-cancer) moles
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Atypical mole and melanoma syndrome (AMS): Previously known as dysplastic nevus syndrome, AMS is characterized by large numbers of atypical moles. If you have AMS, you and your family members should be screened regularly

Not everyone with risk factors gets melanoma. However, if your child has risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your pediatrician.

If your child has been diagnosed with melanoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Our unique multidisciplinary approach
  • Our extensive array of melanoma clinical trials, offering the latest therapies
  • Our nationally recognized research program
  • Innovative melanoma treatments, including lymphatic mapping and sentinel node biopsy, targeted therapy, limb perfusion, interleukin-2 and immune-based therapy
  • Most advanced diagnostic methods
  • One of the world’s largest melanoma programs
  • MD Anderson's Melanoma Moon Shot Program is an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery and implementation of new melanoma treatments

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Childhood Melanoma Prevention

There are several ways to prevent some cases of melanoma in children. Protecting your child from the sun's harmful rays is crucial early in life. Studies have shown that one or two sunburns during childhood can set the stage for melanoma later in life.

You can lower your child's risk of getting melanoma by making certain choices:

  • Avoid sunburn
  • Limit sun exposure
  • Wear a sunscreen rated at least SPF 30, a broad-brimmed hat and a long-sleeved shirt when you’re outside
  • Wear sunglasses when you are outside
  • Stay inside in the sun’s peak hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Protect your children. Babies under 6 months old should be completely shielded from direct sun exposure. Apply sunscreen to infants over 6 months old, and teach older children to make applying sunscreen a regular habit before they go outside.
  • Examine your child's skin monthly. Have any suspicious moles checked by a health care practitioner
  • If your child is at risk, have their skin examined at least once each year by a dermatologist

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented if people applied everything known about cancer prevention to their lives. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center