Melanoma on Downswing in Kids

Pediatric melanoma rates decreased in recent years

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents, you can breathe a sigh of relief — the sunscreen must be working. Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, appears to be decreasing in kids.

A new study may contradict the belief that melanoma cases in children are on the rise. Despite past research indicating that melanoma in both children and adults was becoming more common, melanoma in children and adolescents appears to have dropped.

A decreased rate of melanoma in older teens might be attributed to public health campaigns advocating sunscreens and other protective measures, the authors of this study said. Melanoma can be triggered by excessive sun exposure.

Coyle S. Connolly, DO, a board-certified dermatologist and president of Connolly Dermatology, offered parents some tips on how to keep their kids safe from skin cancer.

"The most important role parents can provide for their kids is to lead by example," Dr. Connolly told dailyRx News. "Children often look to their parents for guidance. The whole family should make sunscreen, sun protective clothing, and mid day sun avoidance part of their daily routine. Let your kids know that sun and tanning booths age your skin and may lead to deadly skin cancer. Parents should examine their children for any new or changing moles or non healing areas. Know the signs of skin cancer and alert your dermatologist if any moles change size, color or shape."

Laura B. Campbell, MD, co-led this study, which used data from US cancer registries. Dr. Campbell is a pediatrician at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

"We took an in-depth look at whether or not the number of new cases of melanoma per year in children and adolescents was increasing in the recent decade," Dr. Campbell said in a press release.

Lead author Jeremy S. Bordeaux, MD, a dermatologist at UH Case Medical Center and UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, added, "Although it is encouraging to observe decreasing melanoma incidence overall, it is concerning that this decrease is occurring in those cases of melanoma with good [chances for recovery]."

These researchers said efforts to educate the public on melanoma risks and preventive measures could help more children — particularly those who might be prone to develop more serious cases of melanoma.

Melanoma in children is rare, according to Dr. Campbell and colleagues — about 5 or 6 cases out of every 1 million kids.

These researchers looked at the number of new cases from 2000 to 2010. They also looked at how the rates changed by age, sex, the type of melanoma and the location on the body.

Dr. Campbell and colleagues found 1,185 new cases of pediatric melanoma. From 2004 to 2010, the number of new cases decreased by 12 percent each year on average.

These researchers also found some differences according to age and sex. In boys, the number of new cases decreased 7 percent per year from 2000 to 2010. In 15- to 19-year-olds, new cases decreased 11 percent each year from 2003 to 2010.

In contrast, Dr. Campbell and team noted that new cases in adults did not decrease over the same time period.

Dr. Campbell and team theorized that new melanoma cases could be decreasing in children and teens for several reasons. If children are spending more time indoors, they may have less sun exposure.

Public health campaigns, such as those encouraging the use of sunscreen or protective clothing, could also have an effect. Parental awareness may be another factor. Parents who understand the potential risks may encourage more protective measures.

This study was published in the April issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Campbell and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 9, 2015
Last Updated:
April 14, 2015