Roslyn, NY (PRWEB) July 31, 2011
A summer vacation often means fun in the sun and water, but it can also mean an increase in the chances of developing a dangerous mole. Most kids are born without moles, called “nevi” by dermatologists, but a recent Colorado study of 681 white children found that every beach vacation leads to a 5 percent increase in small moles on children’s skin.
“The development of new moles is of concern, because the higher the number, and the more irregular moles, the greater the risk for developing melanoma, the most dangerous of the skin cancers,” says Dr. Josh Fox, founder and director of New York and New Jersey-based Advanced Dermatology P.C.. “Melanoma occurs relatively infrequently, accounting for about three percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes about 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. Prevention is the best route to lowering your child’s risk of the disease.”
Most moles are not dangerous, assures Dr. Fox, but it’s important to monitor any that appear on your child’s skin and track the number, shape, color and symmetry of them from year to year because melanomas can grow in or near moles. In fact, the appearance of a new mole or a change in the size, color or shape of a mole is often the first sign of the cancer.
Simply put, moles are pigmented cells that cluster together. They can be brown, tan, pink or flesh-colored, and are usually oval or round and about the size of a pencil eraser. They typically appear during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and they can develop anywhere on the body. They will often get bigger with age, get darker or lighter, develop a raised surface or sprout hair. “By the time most people reach adulthood, they have between 10 and 40 moles,” says Dr. Fox.
Some people have a genetic tendency toward developing moles and also malignant melanoma. Those who have fair freckled skin and who work or spend a lot of time outdoors are more likely, due to sun exposure, to have moles that develop into skin cancer.
Only about 1 percent of infants are born with a mole, which is known as a “congenital nevus.” These moles can look like normal brown, tan or pink moles or they can look like a blue-grayish bruise. A congenital nevus is typically harmless, according to Dr. Fox, unless it is really large (bigger than 8 inches), in which case it increases the risk of developing melanoma over the first five or ten years of life by as much as 10 percent. They are called a precancerous lesion and must be followed.
What Dangerous Moles Look Like
The cardinal signs of potentially malignant moles are ones that:
- Have an irregular shape (asymmetric)
- Have jagged edges
- Are uneven in color or shape
- Have red areas
- Are larger than the size of a pencil eraser
- Are growing rapidly
Preventing Moles—and Skin Cancer
Follow Dr. Fox’s guidelines for mole prevention and protection:
1. Lead by example. A recent French study found that parents who wore a t-shirt when exposed to the sun influenced their kids to do the same. As a result, the kids developed fewer new moles over the next year than the kids of parents who didn’t wear protective clothing while in the sun. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen (for UVA & UVB) with an SPF of at least 15, wearing a hat, avoiding peak sun hours (between 10 AM and 2 PM) and seeking shade are other sun-smart measures to follow yourself and instill in your child. Also be sure to encourage your child to protect his or her eyes with sunglasses, to prevent the development of eye problems such as cataracts later in life.
2. Check your child’s moles every month to detect changes. You might even mark the moles on a body illustration or take photos to record their location, shape, size and color. Don’t forget to look on the scalp, palms, nails and between the fingers and toes, as well as areas that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, legs, neck, chest and ears.
3. See a dermatologist if you find a suspicious mole on your child’s body. “If a mole on your child’s skin suddenly changes size, shape or color or bleeds, or it starts to get bigger, make an appointment with a dermatologist to look at it,” he advises. “It may need to be removed with a scalpel.” Kids who have fair skin, a lot of moles and freckles, or irregular moles should see a dermatologist for regular skin checks, he adds.
About Dr. Fox: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., earned his medical degree from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He completed an internship at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, followed by a three-year dermatology residency at the New York University School of Medicine. A Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Fox is a leading authority in the field of dermatology, with an expertise in skin cancer, acne, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is the author of many dermatologic publications. He is the founder and director of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. of New York and New Jersey and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery and is a spokesman for both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. He is the director of a fellowship program in Laser & Cosmetic Surgery. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com/index.html. Dr. Fox is also the founder and President of The New Age Research Foundation, a national, non-profit [501 (C) (3)] health organization committed to improving the quality of life of those with skin conditions through research and education. He has been a director of the AAD Melanoma skin cancer screenings for the last 25 years.