Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Melanoma, the Best Treatment is Avoidance

Category: Child Care


At the recent American Academy of Pediatrics convention Dr. Sidney Hurwitz, the dean of pediatric dermatology from America spoke at length about practical pediatric dermatology. He shared numerous pearls of wisdom on how to treat everything from eczema to capillary and cavernous hemangiomas (the big strawberry spots which are common in children). His advice on melanoma prevention struck home with me. Dr. Hurwitz warned us that we are losing the war on skin cancer. Despite our great technology, skin cancers are increasing annually at a scary rate. The biggest reason for this, he said is because we are a society of, what he described as "sun worshipers". In otherwords, we continue to go out into the sun because we want to look tan and healthy and have more sexual appeal. A nice tan may make us more attractive, but unfortunately it raises our chances of getting skin cancer enormously. We must prevent these skin cancers starting in childhood.

Dr. Hurwitz reiterated, over and over, how tanning is to the skin. Melanomas are increasing at a greater rate than any other cancer in the world and it is felt to start in childhood in most patients. He said that a decade ago it was almost unheard of to have skin cancer in children but now it is becoming more and more common. Last year in America there were thirty-two thousand cases of melanoma recognized and over six thousand deaths. The tragedy of melanoma is that once it spreads there is usually no effective treatment to cure it. Our family was touched with melanoma in my daughter, six years ago. Fortunately, we were able to surgically remove it before it had spread. She was only nine at the time and it made me quite aware of the danger of dark, enlarging moles in children.

Dr. Hurwitz closed by reminding us one last time that only as physicians educate their patients and encourage good common sense in preventing over exposure to the sun, proper use of sunscreens, and close follow up of moles will we begin to change the rate of increase of these diseases.