Birthmarks - pigmented
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.
Hairy nevus; Nevi; Mole; Cafe-au-lait spots; Congenital nevus
Different types of birthmarks have different causes.
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.
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 raise your risk for cancer. Talk to your provider about how and when any of your moles should be removed.
Large moles that are present at birth may become 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.
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:
There is no known way to prevent birthmarks. A person with birthmarks should use a strong sunscreen when outdoors (to prevent complications).
Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR. Pigmentation. In: Gawkrodger DJ, Ardern-Jones MR, eds. Dermatology: An Illustrated Colour Text. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 39.
James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Disturbances of pigmentation. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016: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.
Review Date: 10/11/2018
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. 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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