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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Do children need to have regular check ups for skin cancer?

    Related Topics
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    Assoc. Prof. John Su

    Dermatologist (Skin Specialist), Paediatrician

    Paediatric dermatologist, Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne and Monash University View Profile

    There is no one hard and fast rule on this. Children get much less skin cancer than adults, but we still can see them. If there are, one of the things we look for in children is what we call an ugly duckling sign which is looking at moles. If you have moles, especially a new mole that doesn't look like the other moles, that tends to be more significant especially if there is any kind of change may well need medical assessment.

    Some risk factories include family histories, very fair skin, having had sun damage in the past, unusual looking moles or lots of moles. These then put people more at risk as does the presence of what we call giant birthmark moles. But overall, the incident of skin cancer is much less in children.

  • 1

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    Dr Roger Woods

    Plastic Surgeon (Reconstructive & Cosmetic)

    Dr Woods is an accomplished Plastic Surgeon, caring for children and adults in Adelaide, who have cosmetic concerns or require reconstruction after cancer or injuries. ... View Profile

    There is no need for children to have regular skin checks for skin cancer.

    The most common skin cancers (basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer) are related to UV exposure and particularly affect adults, with increasing incidence as we age.

    The only skin cancer to be concerned about in children is melanoma.  Importantly, this is incredibly rare before puberty.  After this time, we need to be more careful.  

    These tumours are picked up by noticing a brown spot or ‘mole’ which is irregular in shape, with multiple colours in the spot, or is changing.  Changes in moles are very important.  If you are worried about a spot, please consult your family physician -you may need a referral to a plastic surgeon or dermatologist to have the spot removed if there is any doubt.

  • 2

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    Dr Jillian Tomlinson

    Hand Surgeon, Plastic Surgeon (Reconstructive & Cosmetic)

    Dr Jill Tomlinson is a fully qualified plastic, reconstructive and hand surgeon. After graduating dux in her year at University High School, Jill completed medical ... View Profile

    There is no need for children to have regular skin checks for cancer as skin cancer is extremely rare in children.

    It is important, however, to instil SunSmart principles in Australian children, given the high rate of skin cancers in Australian adults. The high rate of skin cancer in Australia is directly related to sun exposure, and it's never to early to start being SunSmart. Teach your children to:

    • minimise sun exposure when the SunSmart UV Alert is >3
    • minimise sun exposure between 10am and 3pm when UV levels reach their peak
    • seek shade
    • wear a hat that covers the head, neck and ears
    • wear sun protective clothing
    • wear close-fitting sunglasses
    • and wear an SPF30+ sunscreen
    Regardless of age, any individual who has a changing skin lesion (spot, lump, bump or area) should seek medical attention to have the spot checked and, if appropriate, removed.

    For more information on skin cancer prevention and melanoma prevention please visit the Melbourne Hand Surgery website.

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