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Skin cancer and your children: How to spot the signs

Being responsible for the health of your child’s skin can be a daunting prospect – especially when their skin is more vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays than yours! But protecting your child from skin cancer doesn’t have to be complicated; there are some simple procedures can significantly reduce your child’s chances of developing skin cancer.

The easiest and most effective way to protect your child’s skin is to remember to “slip, slop, slap”. Make sure your child slips on protective clothing, such as long-sleeved rash vest or “rashie” as they offer very effective protection for the top half of their body. Remember to cover up on the bottom half of their body too; darker tones of clothing will provide a greater level of skin protection than lighter colours.

It is important to slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen to your child’s skin at least 20 minutes before they head outside. Remember to re-apply every two hours and check you’ve covered all of their exposed skin. And don’t forget to get them to slap on a wide-brimmed hat.

Another easy and effective way of protecting your child’s skin is by avoiding direct sun exposure. If you’re spending a day at the beach, remember to pack an umbrella; if you’re having a picnic, try to sit under a tree in the shade. It’s also good idea to head inside during the hottest part of the day – when the UV ray index is at its peak (between 11am and 2pm).

Remember that regular skin cancer checks for you and your children are important to monitor any changes to their skin. Ask your doctor if you’re unsure on how to perform these checks. Keep in mind the general rule of ABCDE for skin checks, as it is an easy device to remember what to look out for:

  1. Asymmetry: In other words, the mole is not symmetrical on either side; if it were to be cut in half; both halves would not be identical.
  2. Border: The border of the mole is notched, scalloped, uneven or blurry.
  3. Colour: The mole is an unusual colour and is not all the same shade. Benign moles are usually one hue of brown. A malignant mole could be multiple colours, such as brown, black, blue red and/or white.
  4. Diameter: A cancerous mole will typically be larger than a benign one. Any mole larger than 6mm in diameter should be treated as suspicious.
  5. Elevation: Is the surface flat or raised? If it’s raised it’s time to see a doctor.

Babies and children are at considerable risk of sunburn because their skin is very fragile. The risk of developing skin cancer later in life is greatly increased if there is sun exposure during the time from birth to 15 years of age. It is important to minimize children’s exposure to the sun especially during this time. Childhood is a crucial time to establish and maintain appropriate and long-term sunsafe behaviours such as sun avoidance, protective clothing and sunscreen use.

It is normal for children to have some moles and freckles developing before and during puberty, even in areas that are not exposed to the sun. Children rarely develop skin cancer. Full-body checks are usually not recommended until the early 20’s. Obviously, if there is a concerning lesion that is changing or growing out of proportion to the growth of the child, this needs to be checked by a doctor.

Other tell tale signs of melanoma or malignant moles are those which are tender, itch, don't heal properly and bleed, or one that is noticeably different in appearance to your child’s other moles.

If you’re concerned about child’s risk of skin cancer or for more tips on protecting them from UV exposure, head online to, or call 13SKIN (137546) today.