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Grieving mom warns, even teens can be at risk of melanoma

Marianne Bannister lost her daughter Claire to melanoma at the age of 17.

"She should have finished her first year of college this week and she's not, and the reason is because nobody put out the word," Bannister told CBS News -- the word that even teenagers can be at risk of deadly skin cancer, and need to get screened.

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Marianne Bannister with her daughter Claire, who died of melanoma at age 17.

Courtesy Marianne Bannister

Claire had a mole on her ankle, which developed into melanoma when she was just 14.

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

Pediatric melanoma is on the rise, with some research suggesting an increase of about 2 percent per year.

When caught early, melanomas have a very good prognosis. According to federal data, the five-year survival rate for melanomas that haven't spread is 98 percent.

While sun exposure is still considered the number one cause, and indoor tanning can also increase the risk, there's growing evidence that other factors also play a role.

"Some of these defects are clearly inherited," said Dr. Nicola Bravo, a dermatological pathologist.

She said 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," Bravo told CBS News.

Lab samples from adolescents often reveal melanoma that grows deeper, making early detection even more critical. But that can be difficult, as wait times to see doctors continue to increase nationwide.

Bannister started the Claire Marie Foundation in memory of her daughter to raise awareness and sponsor immediate skin cancer screenings for children. She says no child should have to wait months to see a doctor like her daughter 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."