For stages I and II melanoma skin cancer in children, surgery is the treatment of choice. Your doctor may wish to remove additional normal skin around the site of the biopsy depending on how deep the melanoma was. For some patients with stage II melanoma that is very deep in the skin, a sentinel node biopsy may be done and a medicine called interferon may be offered.
For patients with stage III disease, treatment usually includes a lymph node dissection followed by interferon, an adjuvant (added) therapy.
If the tumor has spread to other sites, several treatments might be offered by your doctor. While chemotherapy (Cisplatin, DTIC) and immunotherapy (IL-2, interferon) has been offered in the past, conventional pediatric melanomas share many “druggable” mutations (e.g. BRAF) similar to melanomas in adults so that targeted therapy may be recommended. In addition immune checkpoint inhibitors that have shown promising results in adults should be considered in children.
How to Prevent Melanoma
The best treatment for melanoma is prevention. You can protect yourself and your family from melanoma by limiting the amount of sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM as this is when the sun’s rays are the most powerful. Other tips to protect your child include:
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 during any outdoor activity. When at higher elevations, use a higher SPF.
- Have your child wear a hat with a brim whenever possible to avoid sun to the most exposed part of the body – the face.
- Apply sunscreen a half hour before outdoor activity. Reapply sunscreen often.
- Avoid tanning booths.
- Examine your child’s skin regularly to identify changes. (See symptoms of melanoma)
- Be aware of medications that can make your child’s skin more sensitive to sunlight such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, certain acne medications and birth control pills.