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Celebrating Sunburn-Free Summers

Guest blog post by Elena Hawryluk, MD, PhD, pediatric dermatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and member of the MRF’s Pediatric Melanoma Scientific Steering Committee.

September is Pediatric Melanoma Awareness Month, and I am excited to share a blog entry! I’m an academic pediatric dermatologist in Boston with a special interest in pediatric pigmented lesions, and I am so lucky to care for a number of amazing patients (and their incredible families) who see me for their diagnosis of pediatric melanoma.

After a very long year, this summer has brought some joy back to the clinic (in person!) – patients have been sharing their summer activities and enjoying the outdoors, safely, with opportunities that weren’t available during the pandemic. While there is an emphasis on health and safety, we also see more awareness in general of the public when it comes to sun safety. The hats, UPF clothing, rash guards, cover ups, sunscreen sticks, sprays, gels and creams are becoming more commonplace.

Fewer patients are coming in with sunburns and more are reporting their “perfect score” of zero sunburns when they come to see me. I love it that more people around us “get it” when it comes to protecting their skin, and it makes it easier for those of us who are being “extra careful” to have normalization of sun protection practices. Sun protection and sun safety are among the few things that we can control – and with the crazy world around us, I am always looking for reasons to celebrate. I celebrate my patients’ victories: a sunburn-free summer is a great goal and deserving of a treat!

Pediatric Melanoma Awareness Month is also a great time to reflect on our scientific progress as we continue to learn about the disease and strive to deliver better care for our patients. Our friends and colleagues at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have published an incredible research effort on the genetic underpinnings of different subtypes of pediatric melanoma – this genetic study will lay the groundwork for more individualized patient care.

There are new targeted therapies and immunotherapies being developed and tested, which hold promise for treatment options that didn’t exist even a few years ago. There are efforts at the National Institutes of Health to understand Spitzoid melanomas and atypical Spitz tumors, and I would be happy to connect you to become involved if this type of lesion impacts you or your family. We are getting better at imaging with improved techniques and refined protocols, and this is improving our monitoring and detection of lesions. The pandemic has helped medical teams to advance our telemedicine capabilities and we are meeting and helping patients in new ways. We still have a lot to learn, and I am optimistic about the future. In the meantime, keep up your sun protection and celebrate all of our progress and protection!

Life saving-advances in pediatric melanoma research and treatment development are made possible by your support. In honor of Pediatric Melanoma Awareness Month, please consider a tax-deductible donation today.

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