Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Last night I posted a blog called “When Should a Child Start Seeing a Dermatologist to Check for Skin Cancer?”  I suggested that one should “examine your child for the same suspicious moles and spots that you would an adult.”

A sharp-eyed fellow melanoma advocate was kind enough to tell me that I was wrong.  (cough cough Rev Carol cough cough)  She eluded, “Pediatric melanoma is very different from adult melanoma and usually presents itself differently, too.”

I stand corrected and slightly embarrassed.  I usually research or at least reference my sources for medical statistics, especially considering that I’m not in the medical field (note disclaimer to the left!)  However, in this case, I made a general assumption that melanoma on children would be the same as that on adults.  I was mistaken.

The rest of my blog post still stands on its own…take your kids in to the dermatologist especially if there is family history of melanoma or if there is an unusual or suspicious spot.  However, as I learned, the criteria for that suspicious spot could very well be much different than a spot or melanoma on your own body.

Pediatric Melanoma will be the subject of a blog post very soon…as soon as I do the necessary research!

When Should a Child Start Seeing A Dermatologist to Check for Skin Cancer?

At what age should a child start seeing a dermatologist for full skin checks? 

I asked this question from my Twitter as well as on my Facebook page.  My kids are 11 years old now and about ready to make the transition from pediatricians to general practitioners and/or specialists, including dermatologists.  But is it too early to take the kids in for a full body check?

As I posed the question, my engineering logic was expecting a specific answer like “8” or “12.”  However, most answers were far more emotional than logical.  A large number of the respondents stated that they took their children to have their skin checked as soon as they themselves had been diagnosed with melanoma.  This stands to reason.  Even as an adult, I didn’t start visiting the dermatologist until my brother was diagnosed.  Many times, it takes a big ol’ slap from the black cancer upon a loved one to take notice.

But it’s not just that slap in the face.  Family history is one of the key uncontrollable risk factors toward a melanoma diagnosis.  Did you know that if two immediate family members (parent, child or sibling) have melanoma, you have a darned good (bad) chance of being diagnosed with it as well? [source]  So by all means, if there is any…ANY family history of melanoma, one should have their children checked.

Another criteria as to whether to have the kids checked is to perform the check yourself.  Examine your child for the same suspicious moles and spots that you would on an adult.  Use the ABCDE method and check for Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color difference or changes, Diameter greater than that of a pencil eraser, and Evolving or changing moles.  If any of these conditions exist on the child, see the dermatologist.

When I was a kid, I was covered in moles.  I still am.  I played in the sun and became a pool rat in my teens.  I’m probably lucky to have had only an actinic keratosis cut away from my body.  My kids have few if any moles.  They have grown up in a time (and in a family) when applying sunscreen is the norm.  Melanoma is extremely rare in kids under 12, but like a contact at the Melanoma Education Foundation told me, “there is always that first and rare case and I’d rather be a little over protective and overly cautious than be that 1 in a billion  statistic.”  I agree.

My children’s pediatrician has always been diligent about checking their skin along with everything else, so we’ve been very fortunate in that respect.  My kids have an appointment to see him again within the next couple months for their annual checkup.  At that time, I’ll ask him what he thinks is the best age to start seeing a dermatologist.  I suspect he’ll tell me the same as I learned from you.  If there is a family history, a suspicious spot, or excessive sun exposure, start taking your kids as soon as possible.  And make an appointment for yourself as well.  It’s never too early to have your kids checked…and it’s never too late to get yours checked.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What You Can Do in the New Year

We have a new year before us…one in which we can take action to further melanoma awareness and fund-raising.  Here are a few ideas on how you can make a difference in the coming year!
  • Donate money.  Okay, times are tight.  I know this much more than I can admit.  But it’s not that hard to save a little on the side to give to melanoma research or any charity for that matter.  Believe me when I say that every dollar counts, and if you can only give one dollar the entire year, it still counts!  For me, I plan to save a little (really…a little is all I can afford at the moment) every month to go towards charitable donations.  Most of it will go to melanoma awareness and research.  Some of it will go to other charities that are dear to me.  I will by no means be a high-level donor, but I will donate something.  You can, too!  One dollar or one hundred dollars, the MRF, AIM and so many other organizations appreciate every penny.
  • Participate in a walk.  I’ve been to four melanoma-related walks in the last three years and each one proved to be an emotionally rewarding experience.  You’d be surprised how easy it is to get people to help donate to your efforts.  Even if you don’t raise a ton of money, just participating and being around others who “get it” will forever impact your life.
  • Reach out.  Within the online community, there are many people affected by melanoma in one way or another.  Simply sending an email, text of Facebook message that says, “I’m thinking about you today” can make that person’s day.  We all need that support, and offering even a little here and there will pay back more than you can imagine.
  • Set an example.  Practice what so many of us preach and wear your sunscreen.  Wear a hat (preferably a wide-brimmed hat) especially on sunny days.  Wear your sunglasses.  Stay in the shade.  Stay away from tanning beds!  If you have kids in your life, your example will set their good habits in the future. 
  • Get checked.  You should examine your own body at least once a month.  Use a hand-held mirror to check every inch of your body.  Click here on how to perform a self-exam.  Go see your dermatologist at least once per year for a full body check.  To help remember, schedule an appointment near your birthday to have your birthday suit check.  This should be in addition to any annual check-ups with your general practitioner.
It’s easy to make a difference.  It doesn’t take a Herculean effort…just a small gesture here and there, a penny or two, and a caring heart.  You'll have a better new year for helping!
Happy New Year everyone from Black is the New Pink - Fight Melanoma!