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Age 8 and Fighting Skin Cancer

Focused on Health -

When a child is an active 8-year-old who has never had a sunburn or a family history of skin cancer, the last thing parents expect to hear is that their child has melanoma.

Missy Fowlkes was in shock when doctors in Jackson, Mississippi, told her that the small, scaly place on her daughter Chloe's arm was something they suspected to be melanoma.

“I noticed a place on her that just looked like an infected mosquito bite. It was raised, pink and scaly, not like a mole, so I assumed it would heal on its own,” Missy said. “When I noticed the place growing over the next few weeks, I took Chloe to the pediatrician to have it checked out."

Melanoma Affects 500 Kids Annually

Skin cancer is the most common cancer, and incidence is on the rise in the United States. Of those with skin cancer, only 3% have melanoma. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma does occur in young people, affecting close to 500 children and adolescents each year.

“Little research has been conducted to study the causes of melanoma in children, but many doctors believe it could have more to do with genetics than sun exposure when it occurs in children under the age of 10,” said Dennis Hughes, M.D., Ph.D., Chloe’s pediatric oncologist at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson. 

Treating Melanoma With Chemotherapy

Since melanoma is very rare in children, most children’s hospitals do not treat the disease, which is why Chloe and her family came to M. D. Anderson. After additional surgery, pathology and genetic testing, Hughes decided to proceed with chemotherapy for a year. According to Missy, the biggest challenge is getting Chloe to sit still for her chemotherapy shots.

“Chloe calls herself ‘the strong woman,’” Missy said. “So one day I asked her – when she was squirming around and refusing to stay still – where the strong woman was. She replied, ‘the strong woman is on vacation.’”

Monitor Kids for Signs of Skin Cancer

Despite weekly treatments, Chloe is still an active child attending school back in Mississippi. The family has used this experience to share with others what they have learned from Chloe’s melanoma. 

“Just watch your children, take notice of any places on their skin, and remember to use sunscreen and wear hats,” Missy said. “You don’t have to be in your 20s, 30s or 40s to get skin cancer.”

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center