Skin cancer on the rise among kids

June 9, 2010 5:06:41 PM PDT
In Texas, we know we're at risk for skin cancer, and the cases of the most deadly skin cancer are up by 40 percent in the past 10 years. But here's the surprise: more cases of melanoma are occurring in children as young as five years old, and many doctors even aren't catching it. It might surprise you why Rachael Adams has spent so much time in the hospital. The six year old is being treated for the most lethal form of skin cancer, melanoma.

"It started just as a little mole," said her mother, Danielle Adams. "It had about three colors; it went from a pink to a gray to a brown, and it just looked weird."

Fortunately, it was caught early when she was only five. Doctors say Rachael Adams is doing well after surgery and now receives weekly interferon shots to boost her immune system.

But experts say many pediatricians miss melanoma in kids because they aren't looking for it.

"I think that we're becoming aware that kids can get melanoma," MD Anderson Dr. Dennis Hughes said.

Just ask the Mireles family.

"It took us four dermatologists before we got somebody that would listen to us," Lupe Mireles said.

That's when doctors finally identified the mole on Lauren Mireles' leg she's had since she was 8 was cancer.

Another issue: The Mireleses had to face the fact that many believe only fair-skinned people get the deadly cancer.

"We never would have thought with our dark skin, and being so young -- I think that was the other thing that really, really bothered us," Lupe Mireles said.

"It doesn't matter whether your skin is deep brown or pale white," Dr. Hughes said. "If there's a spot that looks different, that requires some monitoring."

These days, 13-year-old Lauren Mireles as well as 6-year-old Rachael Adams are both doing well on their treatments.

But living a normal life today means wearing hats, sun block and sun-protective clothes.

"Because I don't want to get more skin cancer," Rachael Adams said.

Doctors say to check your child's skin and your own with these ABCs. Red flags are:

A: Asymmetry - when one half of the mole doesn't match the other
B: Border irregularity - when edges are blurred
C: Color - the color isn't the same, especially when a mole is several colors
D: Diameter - it's larger than a pencil eraser
E: Evolution - it changes in shape, size, color or begins to bleed or itch


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