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Learn About Unusual Childhood Cancers
Written by NCI/PDQ®

Source: Cancer Resource Room

Ovarian/Germ Cell What's New
Skin Cancer/Melanoma Pictures - Books - Links
Thyroid Cancer External Websites
Who Treats This?   Overviews on this cancer
Clinical Trials   Connect With Others
Support & Education    

Ovarian Cancer
Most ovarian tumors in children are benign (noncancerous). The most common cancers that affect the ovaries are of germ cell origin (beginning in cells that give rise to sperm or eggs), which are more common in children than in adults. Treatment is stage related and may include radiation as well as chemotherapy. (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Childhood Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors Treatment, Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment, Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Treatment, or Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors Treatment for more information.)

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Skin Cancer (Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma)
Melanoma is thought to be the most common skin cancer in children, followed by basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The incidence of melanoma in children and adolescents represents approximately 1% of the new cases of melanoma that are diagnosed annually in the United States. In all instances, melanoma in the pediatric population is similar to that of adults in relation to site of presentation, symptoms, description, spread, and prognosis.

The most common cause of skin cancer of any type is exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) portion of sunlight. Other causes may be related to chemical carcinogenesis, radiation exposure, immunodeficiency, or immunosuppression. The person who is most likely to develop a melanoma is easily sunburned, has poor tanning ability, and generally has light hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Worldwide, there is an increasing incidence of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Melanoma presents as a relatively flat, dark-colored lesion that may enlarge, penetrate the skin, or metastasize.

See Medical Pictures
See Different Types of Melanomas on the Body
Characteristics of Melanoma Skin Sample with Melanoma
Melanoma on the Foot Melanoma on the Hand
Melanoma Under Finger Nail Melanoma on the Palm

Melanomas may be congenital (present at birth). They are sometimes associated with large congenital black spots known as melanocytic nevi, which may cover the trunk and thigh. Children with hereditary immunodeficiencies have an increased lifetime risk of developing melanoma.

Individuals with atypical moles, which include raised lesions (that may or may not bleed) and various color hues (brown, tan, pink, black) are at an increased risk of having melanoma and having children affected by these premalignant lesions. Basal cell carcinoma generally appears as a raised lump or ulcerated lesion, usually in areas with previous sun exposure. Squamous cell carcinomas are usually reddened lesions with varying degrees of scaling or crusting; they have an appearance similar to eczema, infections, trauma, or psoriasis.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are generally curable with surgery alone, but the treatment of melanoma requires greater consideration because of its potential for metastasis. Surgery for melanoma depends on the size, site, level of invasion, and metastatic extent or stage of the tumor. Prognosis for melanoma in children and adolescents is similar to that for adults with similar stage disease, with the prognosis depending on the tumor thickness and the extent of spread at the time of diagnosis. (Refer to the PDQ summary on adult Skin Cancer Treatment for more information.)

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Thyroid Tumors
Tumors of the thyroid (a gland near the windpipe that produces thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth and metabolism) are classified as adenomas or carcinomas. Adenomas are benign (noncancerous) growths that may cause enlargement of all or part of the gland, which extends to both sides of the neck and can be quite large. Some of these tumors may secrete hormones. Transformation to a malignant carcinoma (cancer) may occur in some cells, which then may grow and spread to lymph nodes in the neck or to the lungs.

See Medical PictureSee medical picture of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Most thyroid carcinomas occur in girls. Thyroid carcinomas are differentiated tumors, meaning that they tend to grow slowly and are not highly malignant.

Surgery is the treatment required for all thyroid tumors. A total thyroidectomy (complete surgical removal of the thyroid) or removal of a portion of the thyroid is recommended, depending on the type of tumor. After surgery, hormone replacement therapy must be given to compensate for the lost thyroid hormone. Evaluations at intervals of 4 to 6 months are required to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lungs. Patients with thyroid cancer generally have an excellent survival with relatively few side effects. Thyroid tumors that recur (come back) are usually treated with a radioactive form of iodine. Even patients with tumor that has spread to the lungs may expect no decrease in life span after appropriate treatment. (Refer to the PDQ summary on adult Thyroid Cancer Treatment for more information.)

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Support & Education Programs

We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges ahead.

To find information on the pediatric support programs, please go to Parents and Family Programs >>>

Read the most recent SUPPORT publication, a resource written by patients and families for patients and families >>>