Cell Phones & Head Blemishes in Adolescents: Is it Melanoma?


August 28, 2011.  A hair stylist in Toronto noticed discolourations on the scalp of adolescents. The marks were often in the temporal lobe near the ear although some were on the top or back of the head.  Since most of the blemishes were covered by hair they were difficult to see.This is what she had to say about the marks:

On a few occasions, I saw one spot on each side [of the head] in similar or same positions above the ear.  Sometimes there are up to 6 on the head.  They range from light pink to dark brown and blackish.  Some of them look new and developing.  Sometimes they are perfectly round with darkened edges, sometimes random shapes with uneven edges.

Sometimes they are a bit like oozing blemishes, sometimes a bit crusty.  Sometimes there might be a few or many on one side of head above and around ear, neck and cheek size of a pea to size of a nickel.  They are most common from grade 3 up to grade 7.  In grade 8 the numbers begin to drop off.  Whatever these blemishes are, the numbers and regularity, with which I see them, is alarming. 

One immediately thinks of melanoma, a malignant tumor–often on the skin–that contains dark pigment.

She goes on to say . . .

While I am aware that the sun is often cited as reason for concern, I cannot help but wonder if the rapid increase in young children’s exposure to various levels of radiation in the home, school, and public environments has something to do with this.  The highest amount of blemishes, per-capita, was on a group of children who apparently carry their blackberries in the pockets of their school uniforms all day long, and have probably been doing it for a few years.

Characteristic signs of melanoma include a spot that is asymmetrical, that has irregular borders, that has a range of colours, and is larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser as shown in this figure.

Compare these to the spots on the children’s head.   Clearly, some require examination by a qualified dermatologist to ensure that they are not malignant.

The message for parents is to check their children for head blemishes and to notify their family doctor if any resemble melanomas.  This is especially important if your child uses a mobile phone.

“Dear 16-year-old Me” is an excellent 5-minute video made possible by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund (DCMF).  This video, now available in English, French, Spanish, and Russian has gone viral. It is well worth watching and sharing.