Skin Cancer in Children and Young Adults

 “Skin Cancer in Children and Young Adults”

Skin cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the skin’s cells, particularly on the top layer the epidermis. Cancer develops as a result of modifications or mutations in the cells’ genes. Genes, which are made up of DNA, are in responsible for all that cells do. The cells’ development, division and death are all regulated by genes. Changes in these genes can lead to uncontrolled cell growth, which can lead to cancer. It can spread to surrounding tissue and cause damage, as well as spread to other parts of the body. In children, skin cancer is extremely rare. Skin cancer is caused mostly by exposure to sunlight. People with fair skin, light-coloured eyes, and blond or red hair are more likely to develop skin cancer than others. 

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Incidence of Skin Cancer in Children and Young Adults

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment melanin, which gives skin its colour) of normal skin or moles and spreads quickly and widely. While Melanoma is the least frequent form of skin cancer in adults, but it is almost always melanoma in children. While skin cancer is uncommon in children, the prevalence of melanoma in children is rising by 2% each year. Melanoma accounts for up to 3% of all cancers in children. Girls aged 15-19 are among the most cancer growths in recent decades, presumably because girls are more likely than boys to sunbathe and use tanning beds.

Children (aged 0-14) had a rate of 1.2 million cases per year, while young adults (aged 15-24) had a rate of 13 million cases per year. Children and young adults develop different types of cancers than adults, and they are generally easier to treat. Skin cancer affects one in seven young people aged 15 to 24. Skin cancer accounts for around 15% of cancers diagnosed in people aged 15 to 24, and they can be prevented by reducing UV light exposure, sunburns, and the use of sunbeds.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, New York, the incidence of melanoma among children, teenagers and young adults has reached epidemic proportions, rising by more than 250% over that last four decades, with young females being the most vulnerable to the deadly cancer. Melanoma is the most prevalent cancer in young adults (25-29 years) and it is the second most prevalent cancer in youngsters aged 15-29 (Skin Cancer Foundation).

Over the last 20 years, survival has improved thanks to research and better treatment facilities. The highest survival rate for skin cancer is 90% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer in Children and Young Adults

  1. Melanoma in children typically begins with a suspicious mole. Melanoma symptoms include a change in a mole, the appearance of a mole with ABCDE characteristics such as:

  • Asymmetry: The two halves of the mole are not the same.
  • Border irregularity: the mole’s edges are ragged or irregular.
  • Colour: the mole is coloured with various colours. It may be tan, brown, black, or red or a variety of hues.
  • Diameter: the mole is approximately the size of a pencil eraser and measures more than 6 millimeters long. However, some melanomas are smaller than others.
  • Evolving: a mole’s size, shape, or colour is changing.

  1. Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A round, elevated bump that is shiny or pearly with tiny blood vessels.
  • A thin, flat, scaly, irregularly shaped spot that is pale, pink, or red in color.
  • A bleedy area that recovers and appears to go away, only to bleed again in a few weeks.
  • A brown, blue, or black growth with raised edges, and a lower center layer.

  1. Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • A bump that is rugged or scaly and grows easily.
  • A wart-like growth with the potential to bleed or crust over.
  • Flat, irregularly colored red patches on the skin that may or may not bleed.

Cancers in young adults are frequently discovered later than cancers of other age groups. There are several reasons that a cancer diagnosis could be delayed:

  1. Most young adults are mostly healthy and do not see the doctor until they are in dire need. This is particularly true in the case of young men.

  2. Financial concerns can influence whether or not anyone visits the doctor. People in this age group, for example, are more likely to not have insurance (or to have only very limited coverage).

  3. Even when a young person visits the hospital with problems, cancer is rarely mentioned as a possible cause since it is uncommon in this age group. Doctors may be more likely to dismiss signs of discomfort or fatigue as the result of other, less serious causes, delaying a cancer diagnosis.

Risk factors

Pediatric melanoma is more common in fair-skinned, light-haired children. Melanoma is more likely to develop if you've been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and have a history of sunburns. A child's risk of developing skin cancer is also increased if there is a family history of melanoma. The rising risk of pediatric melanoma, especially among adolescents, may also be explained by the use of tanning beds. The risk factors for skin cancer in children over the age of 10 are similar to those of adults (though the risk factors for younger children are not evident):

  • Light or fair skin
  • Many blistering sunburns in the past
  • a large number of moles
  • Unusual moles run in the family
  • Melanoma runs in the family
  • Radiation treatment was used before.
  • Immunodeficiency, as seen in individuals who have had organ transplants.
  • Basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) and xeroderma pigmentosum are two rare genetic diseases.

Although unprotected sun exposure and the use of commercial tanning beds are two of the leading causes of melanoma in this age group, other influences, such as genetics, may also play a role. Melanoma is being diagnosed in a growing number of young people in their 20s and 30s. The findings were astounding, not only in terms of the rising number of melanoma cases over this time period, but also in terms of the dramatic increase in young females. In 2013, Caucasian girls and women mostly aged 15 to 29 made up over 70% of tanning salon patrons.

Research in Australia, which has one of the highest prevalence of melanoma in young adults, discovered that nevi, facial freckling, family history, and skin colour were all linked to an elevated risk of melanoma. As a result, hereditary predisposition may be a major factor.

Treatment and Prevention in Children and Young Adults

Melanoma in the early stages is mostly viewed through examination. Treatments that are often used include:

  • Surgery is used to kill the entire melanoma as well as any cancerous lymph nodes that have spread the disease. Any melanomas are simple to remove and only require mild surgery, while others can necessitate a more intensive operation.

  • Chemotherapy may be used, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other tissues.

  • Radiation therapy is another method for treating cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes

  • Immunotherapy is where the child's immune system is trained to kill cancer cells by introducing molecules into his or her system.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and the Skin Cancer Foundation have proposed the following measures to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer:

  1. Sun exposure should be limited between of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

  2. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against all UVA and UVB rays to all sun-exposed regions of your child's body (over the age of 6 months).

  3. When near water, snow, or sand, use extra care. They reflect the sun's harmful rays. This will make you more vulnerable to sunburn.

  4. Be sure your child is dressed in clothing that protects his or her body and provides shade for his or her skin. Hats protect the forehead, head, and back of the neck from the sun. Wearing sunglasses reduces the amount of radiation that penetrate the eye and protects the eyelids.

  5. Sunlamps and tanning salons should never be used.

  6. Vitamin D can be obtained safely by a well-balanced diet, which can include vitamin supplements. The sun isn’t the only source.

Skin cancer is becoming more common in children and young adults. The risks of too much UV exposure and the value of skin cancer screenings have become more understood. Recurrences and melanoma-related deaths have been confirmed in a large amount of cases, therefore regular medical checkups are critical as children grow into adults. Melanoma treatment in children has been linked to a higher risk of cancer recurrence later in life, according to research.


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