Stories about: skin cancer

Ask the expert: Can kids get melanoma?

Contrary to popular belief, children can get melanoma. To keep kids protected from the spring and summer sun, follow this guide  and learn what parents should know about melanoma in children.
Contrary to popular belief, children can get melanoma. To keep kids protected from the spring and summer sun, follow this guide and learn what parents should know about melanoma in children.

My 16-year-old daughter loves to tan. Should we be worried about skin cancer? – Sunseeker’s dad

Although melanoma is very rare in children, the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased on average 2 percent per year since 1973. Thankfully, however, the incidence rate has started to decrease again in the last few years. The biggest increase has been in girls ages 15-19, possibly because girls are more likely than boys to sunbathe and use tanning beds.

While melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer in adults, skin cancer in children is almost always melanoma. Because melanoma often appears differently in children than in adults, doctors and parents sometimes overlook it or misdiagnose it as a different skin problem.

We spoke an expert from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, to learn what parents should know about melanoma in children.

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Understanding the FDA's new sunscreen rules

Sun safety
Wide-brimmed hats are one way to keep your baby's skin safe from the sun

Long, lazy beach days, backyard barbecues and pool parties are all part of the perfect sunny summer day. But while we’re soaking it all up, we should also take in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new sunscreen regulations that were announced on June 14 – the first change the organization has made to its recommendations in the past 30 years.

Up until now, sunscreen makers could claim that a product offers  “broad spectrum coverage,” but that phrase wasn’t clearly defined. Starting in 2012, this definition will be clearer:


  • Sunscreen can only be labeled “broad spectrum” if it protects people from both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultra violet-B (UVB) rays.
  • Because sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of less than 15 offers less comprehensive protection, it will now come with a warning label explaining that it may not protect skin from cancer, burn or premature aging.
  • Since sunscreen can be washed and worn off, the words “waterproof,” “sweatproof” and “sunblock” will no longer appear, and instead we’ll see the term “water resistant.” It’ll also offer directions on how frequently it should be reapplied.
  • SPF numbers will be lower. The SPF numbers had been confusing in that they’re not actually proportional. (SPF 30 is not actually twice the coverage as 15.) The FDA will cap sunscreens at SPF 50 (which is near 100 percent coverage), since SPFs 70-100 were doing little more than SPF 50.

Because the regulations won’t be in place until 2012, Stephen Gellis, MD, program director of Dermatology at Children’s Hospital Boston, suggests using common sense and keeping your own skin’s burning potential in mind when choosing a product. He says that sunscreen should be a second or third defense, and that staying out of the sun or covering up is a much more powerful way to keep your skin healthy.

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Artificial tanners at high risk for melanoma

tanningbedSummer’s almost here, but if you live in Boston you might not realize it. With the exception of a few bright afternoons, cold and rain have dominated June’s forecasts, which isn’t unusual considering New England’s somewhat schizophrenic weather patterns.

But if the tanned appearance of many young Bostonians was your only gauge of summer, you might think the city has been 80 degrees and sunny since December.  Many New England teenagers, especially girls, use artificial tanning beds prior to beach season to build up a “healthy base tan,” before that first trip to the beach. While a preseason bronze may lessen beach anxiety for the self-conscious sunbather, it also makes the tanner 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma than non-tanning bed users according to a study released in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

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