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Skin Moles in Children: What Every Parent Should Know

Skin Moles in Children What Every Parent Should Know

The skin, our body’s largest organ, tells a story. For children, their skin can often tell a tale of endless summer days spent outdoors. However, some of these stories can show up as skin moles. A common phenomenon is that moles can start appearing in children from a young age. However, parents need to understand these skin moles, why they occur, and how to monitor them effectively.

 

Understanding Skin Moles

Skin moles, medically known as melanocytic nevi, are growths on the skin that occur when cells in the skin (pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes) grow in clusters instead of being spread throughout the skin. They can appear anywhere on the skin, alone or in groups. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles, some of which develop during childhood and early adulthood.

 

Different Types of Skin Moles

Several types of skin moles can appear on a child’s skin. These include:

  1. Congenital Moles are moles that are present at birth or develop shortly after birth. They occur in about 1 percent of the population and can vary greatly in size. Larger congenital moles are at a greater risk of developing into a type of skin cancer called melanoma.
  2. Acquired Moles are moles that appear during childhood and adulthood, usually until about the age of 40. They are typically smaller than one-quarter inch, round, and have a uniform color. These are usually caused by sun exposure. Acquired moles are very common and are seldom cause for concern unless they show signs of change that may indicate melanoma.
  3. While not necessarily dangerous, Atypical Moles or dysplastic nevi may be a marker of increased risk for melanoma development elsewhere in the body. People who have many of these types of moles are at increased risk of skin cancer. It’s essential to get these moles looked at as they can look like melanomas. They are usually larger than ordinary moles and have irregular and indistinct borders. Their color is frequently uneven and ranges from pink to dark brown. They typically are flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface. It’s important to remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer detection and have your skin checked regularly.  
  4. Common Nevus is the most typical type of mole and is what most people think of when talking about moles in a general sense. They are usually smaller than a pencil eraser, round or oval, smooth, with distinct edges, and are evenly colored in shades of pink, tan, or brown.
  5. Spitz Nevus is a unique type of mole often found in children. It grows quickly over a few months and usually stops growing after that. Sometimes, it may bleed or itch. Spitz Nevus is often pink, red, tan, or brown and can appear on the face, neck, or legs.

 

Why do Children Develop Skin Moles?

Children develop skin moles for several reasons. Genetic factors play an important role, as children are more likely to have moles if their parents do. Additionally, sun exposure, especially sunburns during childhood, can lead to the development of moles and potentially skin cancer. 

Parents need to be knowledgeable about these skin moles because early detection and monitoring are crucial in preventing potential health risks.

 

Are Skin Moles in Children Dangerous?

Most skin moles are not dangerous, especially in children. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) growths that pose no harm. However, in some cases, moles can develop into melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, although this is very rare in children.

One of the most important things to remember about moles is the “ABCDEs” of melanoma. Use this tool to monitor moles. If a mole exhibits one or more of these characteristics, it should be evaluated by a dermatologist as soon as possible. While it does not necessarily mean it is cancerous, it’s important to get it checked to rule out any possibility of melanoma.

  • A – Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match.
  • B – Border: The border or edges of the mole are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C – Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of black or brown, or even patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D – Diameter: The mole is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E – Evolving: The mole changes in size, shape, or color (source: American Academy of Dermatology).

 

Monitoring Skin Moles

Keeping an eye on children’s skin moles is critical to maintaining their skin health. Regular skin checks can help identify new moles and changes in existing moles. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that adults check their skin and the skin of their children once every month. 

Here are some steps you can follow for efficient skin mole surveillance:

  • Timely Checks: Perform skin checks regularly, ideally once a month. This involves inspecting all areas of the skin, not just where the moles are. Use a mirror for hard-to-see areas. Remember, moles can appear anywhere on the body.
  • Photography: Taking photographs of moles can be an effective way to keep a record and notice any changes over time. Every few months, take a snap of each mole. Use the same lighting and distance from the mole for consistent results. This creates a visual timeline of the mole’s appearance and will allow you to detect changes more accurately.
  • Dermatologist Visits: If your child has several moles, a history of sunburns, or a family history of skin cancer, it would be beneficial to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist. The frequency of visits will depend on the specific risk factors but could range from every 6 to 12 months.
  • Use of Technology: Numerous apps are now available that can help track moles and changes in the skin. These can be used as an additional tool to aid your surveillance. However, they should not replace physical examinations and check-ups with your dermatologist.

 

Prevention and Safeguards

While it’s true that not all skin moles can be prevented due to factors such as genetics, there are effective ways to safeguard your child’s skin and reduce the risk of moles and skin cancer.

Sun Protection

One of the best ways to protect the skin is to limit sun exposure, especially when the sun’s rays are the strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). The best protection is to cover your skin with protective clothing and wear physical sunscreen with zinc oxide. Dr. Storey recommends these products.

Regular Checks

In addition to sun protection, regular skin checks are essential for early detection of potential issues. Conduct monthly checks of your child’s skin to monitor for new moles or changes in existing moles.

Healthy Lifestyle

Promoting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and regular exercise, can also play a role in maintaining skin health.

Remember, while these preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk, they cannot eliminate the chance of developing skin moles or skin cancer. Early detection remains key, so regular skin checks and prompt attention to changes are crucial. 

If you notice anything unusual about your child’s moles, request an appointment at Valley Skin Institute in Fresno, California.

Dr. Leslie Storey | Valley Skin Institute

Dr. Leslie Storey is a board-certified physician specializing in medical and surgical dermatology. Her mission is to find and remove skin cancer, which she does more than 2,000 times a year. An expert in Mohs Surgery, Dr. Storey’s patients often comment that they are amazed at how minimal their scar is after they have healed from surgery. If you notice anything suspicious on your skin, request an appointment with Dr. Storey to have it checked out.

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