Everybody gets moles, even people who use sunscreen routinely. Moles can appear on any area of the body, from the scalp to the face, chest, arms, legs, groin, even between fingers and toes and on the bottom of the feet. Not all moles are related to sun exposure.
Many people inherit the tendency to develop moles and may have a family history of melanoma (cancer), so it's important to know your family history. People with certain skin types, especially fair skin, and those who spend a great deal of time outdoors, whether for work or pleasure, may be more likely to develop dangerous moles.
Children may be born with a mole (congenital) or develop one in early childhood. They may continue to develop moles into adulthood.
It's most important to watch for changes in the shape, color, or size of a mole. Look especially at moles with irregular shapes, jagged borders, uneven color and redness.
I begin checking children's moles at their early check-ups and point out any I want parents to be aware of and watch closely. I note all moles on my chart, so I know each year which ones I want to pay attention to, especially moles in the scalp, fingers, toes and in areas not routinely examined.
Parents are wise to check their child's moles every several months and pay particular attention to any unusual moles. Be aware that a malignant mole may often be flat, rather than raised.
Freckles, common in children, are usually found on the face and nose, chest, upper back and arms. Freckles tend to be lighter than moles, and cluster. If you're not sure what you're looking at, ask your doctor.
Sun exposure plays a role in the development of melanoma and skin cancer, so it's imperative that your child be sun smart. This includes wearing a hat and sunscreen, as well as the newer protective clothing available in many stores. Have your child avoid the midday sun and wear a hat.
Early awareness of sun protection will help establish good habits that hopefully will last a lifetime.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun