Childhood skin cancer is, thankfully, quite rare. But a small number of kids may develop malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"Pediatric melanoma makes for about 2% of all melanoma cases," says Dr. Daniel Kim, a dermatologist at Essentia Health in Fargo. "What we're looking for in kids versus adults can be very different. They don't present in the same way."

In order to understand what melanoma looks like in kids, he suggests first knowing how the cancer appears in adults.

"When you're looking at a pigmented spot, such as a mole, on the body, the ABCDE's of melanoma can help you determine if you should have a healthcare provider assess it," says Kim.

For adults the ABCDE's of melanoma are:

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  • A: Asymmetry. Normal moles are round or sometimes oval and symmetric. Melanomas are asymmetric.
  • B: Boarder. Normal moles have smooth boarders, but melanomas have jagged or scalloped edges.
  • C: Color. Melanomas may be dark or contain a variety of colors, such as black, brown, red, blue or white.
  • D: Diameter. Moles should be less than 6 mm, or less than the diameter of a pencil eraser.
  • E: Evolving. Moles that change shape, size or color should be checked.

For children, the ABCD's of melanoma are:

  • A: Amelanotic. A melanotic lesion lacks melanin, so it may not appear dark.
  • B: Bumpy or bleeding.
  • C: Color. Childhood melanoma may be of uniform color, such as brown or red.
  • D: De novo. Size doesn't matter. Diameter can be of any size.

Kim says everyone should be aware of the ABCDEs of melanoma for children and adults.

Melanoma is a deadly cancer, but may be curable if caught early. See your healthcare provider if you are worried about any mole or spot on your skin.

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