Five-year-old Ashley Garcia of Phoenix, Ariz., has the deadliest form of skin cancer –- melanoma, the Arizona Republic reported Thursday.
No longer a disease that affects just leather-skinned sun-worshippers, melanoma is targeting more and more youth. Melanoma diagnoses in young women have increased 50 percent in recent years and 1 out of every 100 new diagnoses is in a person younger than 18 years of age.
Still, Ashley’s physician, Jeffrey Goldstein, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., said a case like this is rare and virtually without explanation.
She is young and has not spent a lot of time outdoors so overexposure to the sun is unlikely. Plus, she has dark skin and melanoma often strikes people with light skin and blue eyes.
“This is a very serious issue,” Goldstein told the Arizona Republic.
Goldstein removed the tumor from Ashley’s wrist and the tissue surrounding it, but he said the melanoma is at least two-and-a-half years old, which could prove problematic.
A cancer of the pigment-producing cells, melanoma is curable if diagnosed and removed early. If diagnosed late, one-fifth of patients develop the metastatic form of the disease, in which the cancer spreads and is more likely to result in death.
Goldstein said he will know if the surgery was successful and whether Ashley will need radiation next week, according to the report.