Symptoms Of Melanoma In Children

June 19th, 2017

According to statistics provided by Skin Cancer Foundation, 3% of all pediatric cancers fall on melanoma. The figure might not seem that impressive, but please remember that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer for people of all ages. It could be successfully cured if detected early, but delays in diagnostics and treatment significantly decrease survival rates.  

All the above means that regular at-home checks and annual skin cancer screenings must be an integral part of your kid’s healthcare program.

We will describe pediatric melanoma categories and provide some illustrations, but please note that the appearance of melanoma differ from patient to patient, so please always visit your pediatric dermatologist when you notice anything suspicious.  

3 categories of pediatric melanoma

Pediatric Conventional Melanoma is quite uncommon among children who hadn’t gone through puberty. Like an adult melanoma, it is mostly caused by a disrespect for sun safety rules. Here is a good basic guideline for detection of typical melanoma that could be downloaded to your phone as a memo for regular self-checks: ABCDEs of Melanoma.

Spitzoid Melanoma, or Juvenile Melanoma could not be noticed with the same ease as Conventional Melanoma. Sometimes distinguishing it from an ordinary skin condition is hard even for a general practitioner: it has nodular form, with no abnormalities in shape and or color.

Example #1

Example #2

Example #3

Photos courtesy of

Congenital Melanocytic Nevus: big, pigmented birthmark or mole that is present at birth. According to the present research, up to 5-10% of congenital melanocytic nevus cases develop into melanoma.

Photos courtesy of

Symptoms of melanoma in children

The first signs of malignant skin pathology include:

  • Rapid growth of a spot;
  • Appearance of a spot resembling a wart – non-pigmented or pinkish bump;
  • Changes in the form of a spot (changes in symmetry, one-side proliferation, noticeable sticking out far from the surface of the skin);
  • Change in the color of a spot (the appearance of uneven coloring, the predominance of black shades);
  • The appearance of an inflamed corolla (swelling and redness) around the spot;
  • Outgrowths, cracks, ulcers, bleeding on the surface of the spot;
  • The manifestation of uncomfortable sensations in the area of birthmark or mole (tingling, itching, burning, pain).
  • Sometimes the child may face lymph node inflammation, while the melanoma remains the same size.

How is pediatric melanoma diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on physical examination plus biopsy or imaging tests. Sentinel node biopsy might be also required to find out if any melanoma cells have spread to the nearby sentinel nodes.

Risk factors for melanoma in children

  • Family history of melanoma or other skin cancers;
  • Presence of congenital skin diseases;
  • Increased sensitivity to UV radiation due to the genetic component (like fair skin, blond or red hair, freckles);
  • At least one severe sunburn;
  • Presence of a large birthmark;
  • A large number of benign moles.

Please note that the absence of the listed risk factors does not mean that the kid can skip skin cancer screenings.

Treatment of melanoma in children

There are no fundamental differences in the treatment of melanoma in children and adults.

The surgical method is basic. If the situation is complicated, it is the first stage of treatment. Also, early stages are treated with cryodestruction and laser therapy. In the later stages of the oncological process, complex therapy is prescribed, including radio or surgical removal of the tumor and all detected metastases. Chemotherapy is prescribed to prevent complications. Current research and clinical trials are also inspecting the effects of immunotherapy to treat pediatric melanoma.

Preventative measures

At present, the prevention of the disease is based on the following principles:

  • Controlled sun exposure;
  • Careful sun protection with sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hat;
  • In case a pregnant woman is diagnosed with melanoma, the treatment should be started immediately to prevent the transmission of melanoma cells to the child;
  • It’s recommended to remove a giant congenital nevus for preventive reasons and also because it might become a painful cosmetic problem in adolescence.

Pediatric melanoma diagnostics in Celebration

Goodless Dermatology specializes on diagnostics and treatment of various pediatric skin conditions, including skin cancers. In case you’ve noticed any suspicious lesions on your child’s skin, we welcome you to schedule an appointment at our office for thorough medical examination.

Other articles on Pediatric Dermatology from our website:

Pediatric Dermatology

When Your Child Should See a Pediatric Dermatologist?

Pediatric Dermatologist or Adult Dermatologist?