Doctors concerned about number of children diagnosed with skin cancer

Director of Pediatric Dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center believes genetics, ultraviolet light could be factors in melanoma, other skin cancer cases in kids

DETROIT - Doctors believe genetics and ultra violent light exposure could play big roles in why they are diagnosing more and more children with skin cancer

Melissa Cummins was shocked that her son had skin cancer.

"It's not something you think that you're going to be told, that your 11-year-old has beginning stage melanoma," said Melissa Cummins. "I was sick. I actually dropped down and couldn't talk on the phone."

Cummins, a mother who lives in Maryland, said she and her family are vigilant about protecting their skin from the sun. The family spends a lot of time outside hunting, fishing and just out on th boat.

"They were not outside without hats, bonnets as babies, sunscreen always gets put on to the point that my boys fuss at me," said Cummins.

While doctors have said skin cancer in children is remains uncommon, the rate of diagnosis is increasing at an alarming rate.

Dr. Bernard Cohen, Director of Pediatric Dermatology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, said 10 years ago he never saw skin cancer in a child, but now he's seeing a few cases a year.

"Commensurate with the adult skin cancer epidemic, children are not that far behind. Clearly, people are spending more time out in the sun and getting sun exposure and kids are getting a ton of sun exposure early in life," said Dr. Cohen.

Cohen said it's not just melanoma cases on the rise, he is also seeing more cases of less serious basal and squamous cell cancers. Doctors can't point to any definitive reasons for the increase, but Cohen said he believes genetics and more exposure to ultraviolet light are definite factors.

"I think some of the problems in children under the age of 12 is that we don't understand what it means for them lifelong," said Dr. Cohen.

The chance of recurrence after a melanoma can be as high as 50 percent, but Cohen worries that in a child who has years and years left to live, that chance could be much higher.

Cummins said she constantly checks all of her children's skin.

"People don't think kids are going to get skin cancer and it doesn't discriminate. it doesn't matter how old you are and my only thing is to be aware of what's on your own body," said Cummins.

Dermatologists said that pediatricians should be doing skin checks as part of a child's over all check up.

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