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Grieving Mom Warns: Teens Are at Risk for Melanoma, Too

The Short of It

A grieving mom wants you to know that even teens can be at risk for melanoma.

The Lowdown

Marianne Bannister's daughter Claire discovered a mole on her ankle at 14 years old that developed into melanoma. She lost her battle to the cancer at age 17.

"She should have finished her first year of college this week, and she's not," Bannister told CBS News.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer and the deadliest—more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2016, and more than 10,000 of those will die from it.

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According to federal data, when caught early, the five-year survival rate for melanomas that haven't spread is 98 percent. But Bannister says she had to wait months to get her daughter in to see a doctor, which is why the grieving mom now wants to spread the word that even teenagers can be at risk of deadly skin cancer and should be able to get immediate screenings.

Two of the biggest risk factors are sun exposure, which is still considered the number one cause, and indoor tanning, but doctors say other factors may play a role as well.

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"Some of these defects are clearly inherited," dermatological pathologist Dr. Nicola Bravo told CBS, who added that researchers are now finding links between melanoma and puberty. "Children are growing at that time. Their moles are growing. It is certainly possible that that environment plays a role," she explained.

The Upshot

This is scary stuff. I probably spent half of my senior year of high school in a tanning bed—although that was back in the '80s when those things were considered "safe." I also lived in New Orleans for four years in college, where I spent plenty of time out baking in the sun. Yikes! Did I even think about skin cancer back then? Probably not.

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Bannister has now started the Claire Marie Foundation in memory of her daughter in order to raise awareness and sponsor immediate skin cancer screenings for kids. She told CBS that no child should have to wait months to see a doctor like Claire did.

"With every kid that has an atypical mole taken off before it becomes the disease, that's one child that my daughter saved," she said. "And it wouldn't have been in vain."

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