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Birthmarks - pigmented

Hairy nevus; Nevi; Mole; Cafe-au-lait spots; Congenital nevus

A birthmark is a skin marking that is present at birth. Birthmarks include cafe-au-lait spots, moles, and Mongolian spots. Birthmarks can be red or other colors.

Images

Mongolian blue spots
Skin layers

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

Different types of birthmarks have different causes.

Symptoms

Each type of birthmark has its own appearance:

Other signs of birthmarks are:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine your skin to make the diagnosis. You may have a biopsy to look for skin changes that are signs of cancer. Your provider may take pictures of your birthmark to compare changes over time.

Treatment

The type of treatment you have depends on the type of birthmark and related conditions. Usually, no treatment is needed for the birthmark itself.

Large birthmarks that affect your appearance and self-esteem may be covered with special cosmetics.

You may have surgery to remove moles if they affect your appearance or increase your risk for cancer. Talk to your provider about how and when any of your moles should be removed.


Outlook (Prognosis)

Large moles that are present at birth may develop melanoma, a type of skin cancer. This is especially true if the mole covers an area larger than the size of a fist. The cancer risk is related to the size, location, shape, and color of the mole.

Possible Complications

Complications of birthmarks can include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Have your provider examine any birthmark. Tell your provider about any changes in the birthmark, such as these:

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent birthmarks. A person with birthmarks should use a strong sunscreen when outdoors.

Related Information

Red birthmarks
Dermal melanocytosis

References

Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR. Pigmentation. In: Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR, eds. Dermatology: An Illustrated Colour Text. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 42.

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Disturbances of pigmentation. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 36.

Marks JG, Miller JJ. Pigmented growths. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 6.

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Review Date: 11/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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