Little is known about what causes melanomas. Children with a large congenital mole or several medium-sized moles have an increased risk of developing melanoma. Some children have a syndrome that makes them more likely to develop a form of cancer.
Something in the DNA was probably damaged during cell division. It is unclear what causes this error. Nor do we know exactly what suddenly starts the uninhibited division of cells.
Melanoma has virtually no symptoms.
How is melanoma diagnosed?
The (pediatric) dermatologist removes the mole under anesthesia or sedation. The tissue is examined in the laboratory. If melanoma is detected, an ultrasound is done on the lymph nodes in order to detect any metastases. In some instances a scan is done as well.
Children with melanoma are treated according to a protocol drawn up by national and international experts. The (pediatric) dermatologist will usually operate again to ensure that the melanoma has been completely removed. In some instances, the lymph nodes surrounding the tumor also need to be removed so as to prevent the melanoma from spreading. Some children are eligible for immunotherapy or for so-called 'targeted therapy'. These are smart drugs that eradicate tumor cells in a very targeted manner. Children with melanoma are rarely subjected to radiation treatment.
Chance of recovery
The chance of recovery of children with melanoma depends on whether there are any metastases. On average, they have a good 85-90% chance of recovery. Don't be influenced too much by statistics; every child and every situation is unique.
Children with melanoma are treated in close collaboration with the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital and the UMC Utrecht.