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Birthmarks - pigmented

Alternative names

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


A birthmark is skin marking present at birth that ranges in color from brown or black to bluish or blue-gray. Birthmarks include cafe-au-lait spots, moles, and mongolian spots. (See also birthmarks - red .)

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cafe-au-lait spots are a light tan spot, the color of coffee with milk. They may be a normal type of birthmark. The presence of several cafe-au-lait spots larger than a quarter may occur in neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder that causes abnormal cell growth of nerve tissues).

Moles are small clusters of pigmented skin cells. Nearly everyone has moles, which usually appear after birth.

Congenital nevi (moles present at birth) have an increased risk of becoming skin cancer ( malignant melanoma ). This is especially true if the nevus covers a large area of the body (larger than a fist). All congenital nevi should be examined by a health care provider and any change in the birthmark should be reported. Watch for changes in the size or color, or the appearance of sudden ulceration, bleeding, or itching in the birthmark.

A mongolian spot (also called a mongolian blue spot) is usually bluish or bruised-looking. It usually appears over the lower back or buttocks, sometimes in other areas including the trunk or arms. These are more commonly seen in darker-skinned populations and may persist for months or years but do not become cancer or develop other symptoms.


  • skin, abnormally dark or light
    • brown, black, bluish, or blue-gray
  • skin lumps
  • skin lesion
  • discolorations, lumps, or lesions may
    • be variable in size
    • contain hair
    • be smooth, flat, raised, or wrinkled

Signs and tests

Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of the appearance of the skin area. A biopsy may be performed on a removed mole to look for cancerous changes.


Treatment varies depending on the type of birthmark and associated conditions. Usually no treatment is required for the birthmark itself.

Large or prominent nevi that affect the appearance and self-esteem may be covered with special cosmetics.

Moles may be removed surgically if they affect the appearance or if they have an increased cancer risk. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor to decide how and when to remove any moles.

Support Groups

The Nevus Outreach

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Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT