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What are Birthmarks?

The most common type of birthmark is a pigmented lesion present on a newborn baby’s skin. Some are raised, some are smooth, some fade as your child ages and others are permanent. While most are harmless and painless, some birthmarks may indicate other changes in the body. Most birthmarks change over time and the size and number present within the first two years of life can affect what to expect. Your child’s doctor should examine all birthmarks to make sure they look normal.

The most common birthmarks are:

  • Congenital moles (nevi) – These moles are usually pink, brown or black and can appear anywhere on the body. They vary in size and shape.
  • Café-au-lait spots – Most of these light-to-dark-brown birthmarks are smooth and oval or round. They often appear on the torso and lower body.
  • Dermal melanocytosis – These smooth blue or blue-gray birthmarks appear on the lower back and buttocks and tend to be uneven in shape. These are more common in darker skin and fade over a period of years

How are Birthmarks diagnosed?

To diagnose most birthmarks, your child’s doctor will examine his or her skin and determine if the mark looks normal. It is important to have your child examined if a birthmark grows, bleeds, causes your child pain or develops an infection.

In very rare cases, birthmarks will need treatment if they are growing quickly, associated with a genetic syndrome or transforming into a more serious condition.

What are the causes of Birthmarks?

Pigmented birthmarks are caused by a cluster of pigment cells under the skin. Most small birthmarks are harmless.

How are Birthmarks treated?

Most birthmarks require no treatment and a few will fade or disappear over time.

Large congenital nevi (moles) do present an increased risk of developing melanoma (skin cancer), so they – along with all other moles – should be monitored for changes at your child’s regular appointments.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are birthmarks common?

    Birthmarks, in general, are very common in infants.

  • Are birthmarks painful?

    Most birthmarks are not painful unless they become altered due to scratching or other irritation.

  • What changes should I watch for in congenital moles?

    Some congenital nevi (moles) will change in appearance (size, thickness, color) as a child ages. These changes are not necessarily a cause for concern, but they should be monitored by your child’s doctor.

  • Are there special precautions to take if my child has a mole?

    Sun protection is important for all children, but even more so for a child with moles. Multiple or large moles increase the lifetime risk of melanoma and sun protection is an important preventive initiative.