Study: sun damage induces childhood melanoma

Melanoma Month is almost over! I hope you’ve managed to learn much more about this important skin condition and increase your awareness of how serious it is. Today, we’ll be discussing melanoma in children. Melanoma in kids is extremely rare, except when it’s genetically inherited. However, there is a factor that is incredibly significant that can play a role in melanoma in children, and that’s the sun.

In a new study carried out by the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, a genomic analysis was performed on 23 melanoma pediatric patients from nine months to 19 years old. What they found was interesting – unlike many cancers, conventional melanoma is essentially the same disease in children and adults.

Interestingly, among the 15 patients with conventional melanoma, more than 90& of the tumors had genetic changes consistent with UV-caused damage. What happens is that the sun induces mutations within the cells, so the higher the sun exposure, the higher the number of mutations.

While I don’t personally encounter a lot of children with melanoma, it does happen and it’s always surprising when I do. I’ve seen it happen to children who are less than five years old, and our practice will always remove suspicious lesions. This is a clear sign that sun protection should start on day one of life, and I hope that these findings will help families protect their children from sun damage. We can only hope that with more research and advances, we can get a handle on this disease.

Source: Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2015) 135, 816–823; doi:10.1038/jid.2014.425; published online 30 October 2014

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