Moles are medically known as melanocytic nevi. If moles are present at birth or appear within the first year of life, they are known as congenital melanocytic nevi (1). They are common and seen in about 1-3% of all newborns (2).
A baby could have several moles, and they may appear on the skin or mucous membranes of any part of the body (3). Most moles are brown, but some may also be in shades of pink, red, or black. Some moles may get darker with time. Other usual traits of moles include the presence of tiny hair and a raised texture.
This post tells about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of moles in babies.
Different Types Of Moles
The following are the different types of skin moles that could be present in babies (3).
1. Congenital nevi
These are moles seen on a baby’s body when they are born or during the first year of life. They could be classified as small, medium, or large, depending on their size (2). Congenital nevi could vary in their color from light brown to black.
Small and medium congenital moles are more common. Large congenital melanocytic nevus (LCMN) is a rare type of congenital mole. It is seen in about 1 in 20,000 newborn babies across the world. They have an area larger than 20cm2 or about eight inches wide in diameter. Giant congenital nevi are the ones that cover an area of 40cm2 (4).
2. Dysplastic nevi
They are also known as atypical moles and are usually the size of few millimeters. They have a characteristic irregular shape since they do not have sharp or defined borders. The center of these moles could be darker than the borders. They are mostly flat with no raised texture and are brown in color.
Dysplastic nevi are usually genetically inherited and may occur in babies with a family history of it. An infant could have a few to hundreds of these moles on their body.
3. Spitz nevi
This mole is often pink with a raised, dome-like appearance. It may also occur in black, red, or brown color. Some spitz nevi may ooze fluid or blood, depending on their texture. Spitz nevi may often be mistaken for melanoma (a type of skin cancer), and your baby’s doctor may examine it further during routine checkups.
4. Common nevi
These are common moles that randomly occur on the body with characteristics not resembling any other type of mole. We usually think of common moles when we think of moles. Common moles are usually few in number, and each mole measures less than five millimeters in diameter. They have a distinct edge, and their color can be a shade of pink, brown, or tan (5).
Except for congenital nevi, other types of moles may develop at any time during infancy and toddlerhood.
Causes Of Moles In Babies
All moles consist of melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin, a pigment that gives our skin its color. Moles occur when melanocytes form a cluster. The concentration of the melanocytes in a mole could determine the type of mole. For instance, melanocytes are found in large numbers in congenital melanocytic nevi.
The exact reason behind the clustering of melanocytes and the formation of moles is unknown. Genetic factors are believed to be the most common possible reason since some types of moles may occur in babies with a family history of it. Congenital nevi or congenital moles, especially large and giant ones, are believed to occur due to genetic mutations that could occur during the fetal stage. It is not known what causes the genetic mutations, and they could be random (4) (6).
When To Be Concerned About Moles?
Congenital nevi are conspicuous and seldom go unnoticed. Your baby’s doctor will examine them and any other moles to rule out any anomaly, such as melanoma.
You must see a doctor if your baby’s mole shows the following signs, even if it was ruled out as normal by the doctor during the initial inspection (6).
- Change in the appearance, such as color or shape
- A rapid increase in the mole’s size
- Baby itches the mole often
- Baby cries when the mole is touched
- Bleeding or pus formation on the mole
- Sudden appearance of new moles on the body
You need to be extra cautious if your baby has large or giant congenital moles since they have a greater chance of turning into melanoma later in life (2). Large dysplastic nevi may also pose a similar risk.
Childhood melanomas are very rare, with about 300 to 400 cases reported each year in the United States (7). Nevertheless, you should be alert to any changes in the moles and see a pediatrician if you notice any issues.
Treatment For Moles In Babies
All moles do not need treatment. If your baby has a mole, you may be advised to keep an eye on it. You may click pictures every week or month to track any changes in appearance.
Some moles may require treatment, depending on their type and location. The doctor may suggest the removal of a mole in the following scenarios (8).
- Cosmetic reasons, such as congenital moles present on the face
- Interferes with the body’s movements or functions, such as moles in skin folds that rub against the skin
- Moles at risk of turning into melanoma, such as moles that rapidly grow in size
Surgical removal is the choice of treatment for a mole’s removal. It is usually done under local anesthesia. The surgery might leave a scar. The doctor may consider laser or other techniques, which may not leave a scar (6).
A team of pediatricians, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and anesthesiologists collectively perform the surgery. Removal of a problematic mole greatly reduces the probability of the baby experiencing melanoma (6).
Prevention Of Moles In Babies
Moles are natural skin growths, and there is no known way to prevent them. The following steps could help avoid the rapid growth of existing moles and reduce the risk of melanoma (3).
- Limiting the baby’s sun exposure
- Making them wear sunscreen lotion whenever outdoors
- Examining the moles regularly and contacting the doctor if you notice any abnormality
Facts About Moles
- Most moles appear in early childhood or by 20 years of age.
- It is normal to have 10 to 40 common moles on the skin by adulthood.
- Moles may disappear even after lasting for decades. New moles may emerge even in adulthood.
- Moles may change color and texture as our skin ages.
- Most moles are harmless. They are not contagious and healthy moles never hurt, itch, or bleed.
Moles are common, and babies could have them as well. Most moles are harmless, but you must keep an eye out for any changes in them. Do not hesitate to speak to a pediatrician if you notice any changes in the shape and color of a mole. You may also ask the doctor to examine the baby’s moles at the routine wellness checkups to rule out any anomalies.
2. Baby Birthmarks & Rashes; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Moles; Cleveland Clinic
4. Congenital Nevus (Mole); The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
5. Common Moles, Dysplastic Nevi, and Risk of Melanoma; National Cancer Institute
6. Moles (Congenital Melanocytic Nevi); Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
7. Melanoma can look different in children; American Academy of Dermatology Association
8. Moles: Diagnosis and Treatment; American Academy of Dermatology Association