Skin Cancer

Also known as: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a very rare cancer in children, which, when present, results from skin cells growing without restraint. Some can potentially spread to other parts of the body. There are 3 main types of skin cancer: 

  • Basal cell - the most common and very treatable.
  • Squamous cell cancer - which is less common, grows faster and can rarely spread to other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma - very unusual in children but as it spreads quickly causes most deaths.

What causes skin cancer?

Exposure to sunlight is the main cause; however children who have fair skin, blond or red hair, blue eyes and sunburn easily are more likely to get skin cancer.

Other risk factors include time spent in the sun, its intensity, using tanning beds or lamps, family history of skin cancer, having freckles or having many moles (and atypical ones) on the skin, or past radiation or other treatments, medications, and/or infections that suppress the body's immune system.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Most basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas present as a bump, nodule, or scaly pink patch on sun exposed areas of the body.

A melanoma usually begins as a mole whose features change, it gets bigger, bleeds, or color changes with perhaps blue or black areas in its center with edges that become less clear, itches or hurts and looks different to the other moles on your child's skin.

What are skin cancer care options?

Depending on the type of skin cancer, treatments will vary. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers may be treated with chemotherapy ointments applied to the skin (topical), radiation, and a number of surgical ways to remove the cancer.

Melanomas may require a broader range of treatment options which might include surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. 

Reviewed by: Ana Margarita Duarte, MD

This page was last updated on: June 28, 2022 02:42 PM

Children's Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital focuses on the latest medications and technology available for the specialized treatment of all skin diseases and disorders affecting children of all ages.

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