Congenital melanocytic nevus

Commonly known as moles, these birthmarks are made up of normal pigment cells. They usually present at birth, but can also appear within the first year of life. Congenital melanocytic nevi (CMN) are classified according to their greatest diameter in adulthood:

  • Small (<1.5cm)
  • Medium (1.5-19.9 cm)
  • Large (20cm and above)

CMN appear as flat or slightly raised light to dark brown lesions. With time they can become thicker. There is a slightly increased risk of cancerous change in all CMN. However the risk is small in small and medium sized CMN and higher in large CMN.

Treatment of CMN depends on the size, site and potential cosmetic effects. Small and medium sized CMN may be observed and large CMN requires in-depth discussion with your dermatologist.

Epidermal nevus

Epidermal nevi (EN) are relatively common benign birthmarks, due to thickening of the top layer of the skin. They are usually present at birth or noticeable during early childhood, and appear as brown velvety or warty plaques. They may occur in a linear or wavy pattern.

EN may be left alone, but if treatment is required, cryotherapy, electrosurgery, laser removal or surgical excision can be considered.

Nevus sebaceous

Nevus sebaceous (NS) are relatively common congenital birthmarks and consist of increased numbers of oil glands. They occur most commonly on the face and scalp, and are usually present at birth or early childhood. These are yellow to tan, hairless areas on the scalp, with a smooth or velvety surface. New growths may appear within NS, have a dermatologist assess the growth if needed.

Small NS may be observed, and surgical removal may be recommended for larger lesions.

Port-wine stains

These are birthmarks that occur due to abnormal development of blood vessels. Present at birth, they occur most commonly on the head, neck and limbs as pink or pale purple patches. With age, the colour can darken and the affected skin may become thicker and lumpy.

Uncomplicated port-wine stains are harmless except for cosmetic concerns, but rarely they can be associated with other abnormalities. Discuss with your dermatologist if there are any concerns.

Laser treatment can lighten port-wine stains and early treatment is recommended for best results. Treatment has to be repeated every few weeks and results vary depending on the site of lesion and the initial colour.

Infantile haemangioma

Infantile haemangiomas (IH) are collections of small blood vessels in the skin, most commonly in the head and neck region, and rarely in other organs. They occur more commonly in baby girls than boys, in premature babies and twins. IH can appear reddish, or bluish, or both. They are not obvious at birth but become apparent after a few days or weeks of life, and growth rapidly in the first 4-5 months and growth then slows down or stops. IH eventually disappears at a rate of approximately 10%/ year.

Discuss with your dermatologist if treatment is needed. Treatment options available are topical and/or oral medications, lasers or surgery.