What Every Parent Should Know About Their Children’s Moles

By Robin P. Gehris, MD, FAAD, FAAP, Chief, Pediatric Dermatologic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Dr. GehrisMay is Melanoma Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time of year to remember to schedule your child’s thorough skin examination with a board-certified pediatric dermatologist who is specifically trained to detect abnormal moles and skin cancer in babies, children, and adolescents. Atypical moles and skin cancers may present differently in children than they do in adults; sometimes they can masquerade as a red bump or even a wart when in fact they are atypical moles.

Children who have a history of any blistering sunburn, of intermittent intense sun exposure, freckling, fair skin, immunosuppression, or a family history of skin cancer (such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and especially melanoma), are at the greatest risk and should be screened every year. The best way to ensure that your child’s moles are healthy is to perform your own monthly examination at home looking for any moles that meet the “ABCDE” criteria.  You should also visit a highly trained professional who can perform a skin examination once per year.

The “ABCDE” criteria help families at home decide if there are any unusual moles that require a professional examination even sooner than once per year.

The “ABCDE criteria” for detecting abnormal moles:

A:  Asymmetry: one half of the mole is unlike the other half

B:  Border: an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border

C:  Color: varied colors from one area to another; shades of brown, black, white, blue or red

D: Diameter: greater than the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm)
•  This is the least important criteria and is arguably inappropriate, as many melanomas can start as lesions that are much smaller than a pencil eraser.

E:  Evolving: any mole that looks different from the others or is changing in size, shape or color, itching or bleeding
•  Some people call this the “ugly duckling” rule, that any mole that doesn’t look like the rest should be evaluated carefully
•  This is one of the most important criteria to help you identify a potentially worrisome mole.

Children and adolescents may prefer to wear swimsuits under their clothing the day of their visit with the pediatric dermatologist so they don’t feel self-conscious or “naked” when they come in to have their moles evaluated. The routine of having their moles checked once per year is just as important for them to establish as the routine of regular dental and medical checkups.

Welcome the spring season with skin that you know is healthy by visiting your pediatric dermatologist for a complete mole check and discussion of any problems you may be experiencing with your skin. We are here to make your children look and feel their absolute best, and we want to help them learn healthy habits at a young age that they can then keep for the rest of their lives.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric dermatologists, please visit http://www.chp.edu/CHP/dermatology