The Kid's Doctor: Monitor moles in children
People with fair skin and those who spend a great deal of time outdoors can develop dangerous moles. (May 29, 2013)
Anyone can develop a mole, even those who use sunscreen routinely, since not all moles are related to sun exposure. Moles can occur on any area of the body from the scalp to the face, chest, arms, legs, groin and even between fingers and toes and on the bottom of the feet.
Many people inherit a tendency to have moles and may have a family history of melanoma (cancer), so it's important to know your family history. People with certain skin types, especially fair skin, as well as people who spend a great deal of time outside, whether for work or pleasure, are more likely to develop dangerous moles.
A child may be born with a (congenital) mole or develop a mole in early childhood. It's common for children to continue to get moles throughout childhood and adolescence, and even into adulthood.
The most aspect of monitoring moles is to be on lookout for changes in the shape, color, or size of a mole. Look carefully at moles with irregular shapes, jagged borders, uneven color within the mole, or redness.
I begin checking children's moles at their early checkups and point out any I want parents to watch. I note all moles on the child's chart so I know each year which ones I want to pay attention to, especially moles on the scalp, fingers and toes and in areas that are not routinely examined. Parents should check their child's moles every few months.
Be aware that a malignant mole may often be flat, rather than raised.
Freckles, also common in children, are usually found on the face and nose, the chest, upper back and arms. Freckles tend to be lighter than moles, and cluster. If you are not sure what you're looking at, ask your doctor.
Sun exposure plays a role in the development of melanoma and skin cancer, so it is imperative that your child be sun smart. This includes wearing a hat and sunscreen, as well as the newer protective clothing available in many stores. Have your child avoid the midday sun and wear a hat. Early awareness of sun protection will hopefully establish good habits that will stick throughout your child's life.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.comat http://www.kidsdr.com.)