This past May we donated “My First Skinz” Baby swim shirts to the Phoenix Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona in honor of National Skin Cancer Awareness month. The same hospital where one-year-old Addison Cox is being treated for Stage 4 Metastasized Malignant Melanoma. Her mother Brianna Cox was also diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and succumbed to the disease on February 12, 2012. Since her passing doctors, community and family have been trying to make sense of how this could have happened.
In 2006 Brianna had Melanoma that was treated and was believed to be in remission. She had a son without any complications then she became pregnant with Addison. Doctor’s again reassured Brianna and her family that the risk for the cancer being passed on to her un-born child was rare. Addison was born without any problems. Then one day Brianna was taking a walk when she collapsed. She was rushed to the emergency room and after a cat scan the doctor’s found that her malignant melanoma had spread to her brain. The melanoma had returned. Addison was three months old when her melanoma was found. Now Brianna’s husband, family and community are trying to grant Brianna her last wish; “to raise awareness and help her daughter.”
The FDA has approved experimental treatments for Addison, but those treatments are not covered by insurance. Addison is on a chemo-pill that seems to be working, but she has been given one year to live. This is heartbreaking to think that she may only live to be two-years-old. This very courageous little girl has tumors on her shoulder, heart, thigh, liver, lung, tongue and five on her brain. This is the first case of the transfer of cancer from mother to child in Arizona and the 9th world-wide. Even though it’s rare the most common cancer that would do it is melanoma. The Institute of Cancer Research, a college of the University of London discovered that certain cancer cells can cross the placenta of an afflicted mother into her unborn baby. The cancer cells of both the mother and the baby carried the identical mutated cancer gene, not inherited, but passed through the placenta. This is a normal occurrence, but the majority of the time the fetus’ immune system will destroy such cells. It is when mutated cells are not recognized as foreign bodies and are not destroyed by the fetus’ immune system that the transfer of cancers like leukemia and melanoma happen.
Melanoma is not just spots on the skin–there should be a screen of internal organs.
The risk of developing melanoma by not protecting yourself from sun damage is a real concern, but there is always the possibility for pregnant women to pass this along to their babies. If you would like to help Addison and her family in any way then visit the links below.
One third of all cancers to pass across the placenta are melanoma.
How can you help?
Take a look at the Phoenix Hospital event in the pictures to follow. Thank you so much to Julie Igo and Liz Tomko from ArtPlay for helping us with this outreach!!
Dr. Harper Price (in the tourquise), one of two Pediatric Dermatologists at Phoenix Hospital