Q: My four-year-old daughter recently developed a new freckle on her cheek after she was accidently sunburned last summer. It’s darker than her other freckles, and larger too. Should I be worried?
A: It’s so easily done in Dubai. An afternoon spent outdoors, when the little ’uns are popping in and out of the swimming pool, can sometimes result in the odd spot of sunburn. Usually, the redness clears up, but should you panic if a freckle changes shape – or even a new one develops?
Dr Juliane Reuter, Specialist in Dermatology at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim says changes in the colour and size of freckles and moles, or the appearance of new ones, especially following a bout of sunburn, should be checked regularly by a dermatologist. ‘Malignant melanoma can occur in children, although this is rare. It is common for children to have moles, and to develop new ones with the trigger factor of sunlight. In most of the cases it’s fine. However, caution, especially if a child has experienced sunburn, should be exercised. Sunburns in childhood contribute highly to the risk of developing a malignant melanoma later on in life.’
She explains, ‘I see a lot of children who have soft, bobbly moles, and generally, these aren’t the ones parents have to worry about. The freckles and moles you need to be concerned about are the flat, dark-coloured ones. If a mole changes in colour and shape, it should always be checked, just to be on the safe side.’
Dr Reuter advises parents visit a dermatologist in case of a changing mole. ‘We perform digital mole mapping. That means that moles are marked, photographed and magnified. The images are then used for follow-up visits, so that even the slightest change in the structure of a mole can be visualised and potentially dangerous changes can be identified.’
In terms of applying sunscreen, Dr Reuter advises parents to be vigilant, despite recent reports that sun block is preventing children getting enough vitamin D. ‘If children are playing outside, they will get enough vitamin D because the sun always shines. Factor 30 sunscreen offers adequate protection, even to fair-skinned children because it blocks 96 per cent of the UV rays. Combined with sun-protective clothing this is enough to prevent damage,while still allowing the skin to produce vitamin D.’
She adds, ‘To achieve a higher SPF than 30, chemical filters need to be added. This can irritate sensitive or eczematous skin. As we apply sunscreen all year round in Dubai, it’s best to choose a sunscreen that is free from chemical filters. Ask your pharmacist for a sunscreen that only contains the physical filters zinc oxide or/and titanium dioxide.’
Dr Juliane Reuter is a Specialist in Dermatology at the Health Bay Polyclinic. 04 348 7140; www.healthbayclinic.com