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Do children need skin cancer checks?

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There is nothing that scares parents more than the idea of their child being sick, so one of the most frequently asked questions in cancer clinics is whether their children should have regular checks for skin cancer.

Since most moles grow between birth and young adulthood, it can often be concerning to see new growths arise regularly, especially if the child is frequently outside during summer holidays, playing sports or taking part in outdoor school activities.

The good news is that the risk of skin cancer for children is very low, and regular screening might not be necessary. Under the age of 15, a child is many times less likely to develop skin cancer than those who have reached adulthood, when the affliction becomes much more prevalent.

There are times, however, when going to the doctor or skin clinic for a second opinion becomes a good idea.

Your child has a family history of skin cancer and a large number of moles.

A family history of skin cancer, fair skin and greater than 100 moles means that the risk of skin cancer can be higher than average. If this is the case, then going to the doctor to discuss whether to begin regular checks is a good idea. Skin cancer also becomes more prevalent after the age of 15, when children at high risk of developing the disease are recommended to begin regular checkups.

Keep an eye on your child’s skin

Even if your child doesn’t fall into the high-risk category, it is still important to keep an eye on their skin for new and abnormal growths.

Keep in mind the ABCDE rule to help you identify melanoma and cancerous moles.

This includes asymmetrical mole shapes, irregular mole borders, moles that are more than one uniform colour, moles with a diameter larger than 6 millimetres (but can be smaller than this) and moles that are growing or evolving in some way.

Other signs of skin cancer include lesions and sores on the skin that are not healing, moles that bleed or release fluids and moles that become hard or raised when previously flat. If you find that your child is presenting any of these signs or symptoms, it is essential to consult a doctor or skin cancer clinic.

Sun safety is key.

Aside from looking for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer in your children, it is also vital to take preventative measures to help reduce the chance of skin cancer later in life. Children before the age of ten who have had multiple sunburns and high sun exposure have a higher chance of developing skin cancer than adults.

That is why taking precautions to protect against sun damage is vital to healthy skin. This includes wearing sun-protective clothing on days with high UV levels, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and a protective hat. Learning to be sun smart at a young age can help them form a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime.

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