As the name implies, a Congenital Melanocytic Nevus is a mole present at birth. In this case, the nevus is quite large and grows proportionally as the child grows in size. They are also called
- Congenital Melanocytic Nexus
- Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (or Nexus)
- Large Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (LCMN)
- Giant Congenital Nevi (GCN)
These large moles can reach up to 16 inches in size on full-grown adults, posing significant aesthetic concerns. Only occurring in less than 2% of all newborns, these nevi pose concerns for the child’s development as well as other medical and cosmetic issues.
The main medical concern for Giant Congenital Nevi is the risk of cancer. Since nevi are composed of clusters of melanin, the pigmentation element in our skin, there is a risk that these large melanocytic nevi can turn into melanoma. This is an aggressive form of skin cancer that can be difficult to treat if not caught in its earliest stages. Children born with a giant congenital melanocytic nevus are typically monitored closely for any changes to the nevi that could signal the development of cancer.
Other medical concerns include the nevus forming in areas that restrict movement or impair function. The skin where nevi form can be less elastic, which can restrict normal movement if the large mole forms in a joint, such as the elbow, wrist or knee. Though rare, they can also form on the head or face, and possibly impair eye movement and function.
Very rarely, patients can develop a condition called neurocutaneous melanosis. This is the formation of melanocytes in the tissue covering the spinal cord and brain. Complications can include increased pressure on the brain, which causes headaches, seizures, vomiting, irritability, mobility issues and possibly tumors on the brain.
Aside from medical concerns, especially the risk for developing melanoma, there are significant cosmetic concerns. Giant congenital nevi are highly noticeable, because they grow as the patient grows. Large, dark nevi stretching several inches across the body are hard to hide. This can cause self-esteem issues, problems with lack of self-confidence in one’s appearance and can even trigger behavioral problems in young children.
While aesthetics may not be the most important concern surrounding a congenital melanocytic nevus, it it still a valid concern that should be openly discussed between parents and children and their doctor. One of our specialists at The Vascular Birthmark Institute can explain more about these rare nevi and the concerns with their development.
Treatment for Giant Congenital Nevi
Treatments for giant congenital nevi range from cosmetic treatments to laser therapy to surgical excision, depending on many factors. Extensive surgical removal may require skin grafting, tissue rearrangement and scar treatments over time. Several procedures may be required to completely remove the nevus and repair damages to the remaining skin. Other treatments may be combined to help skin heal, remove or lighten pigmentation and other concerns.
Schedule an exam and consultation with The Vascular Birthmark Institute in New York soon if your child was born with a congenital melanocytic nevus. We can provide information and treatment options if needed.