What exactly is a birthmark?
If your baby has a birthmark, you’ll likely see a spot, patch, or lump that looks different from the rest of your baby’s skin. You may see this when your baby is born. Some birthmarks appear shortly after birth.
Birthmarks come in many shapes and colors. You may see a flat or raised mark. It may the size of a pinhead or cover a large area of your child’s skin. Most birthmarks fall somewhere in between. A birthmark can be pink, red, tan, brown, or any other color. Some look like a bruise. Others look like a stain on the skin.
Some birthmarks are common. It’s estimated that between 3% and 10% of babies are born with a type of birthmark called a (he-man-gee-oh-ma). Other birthmarks, such a port-wine stain, are less common.
Certain types of birthmarks, such as a salmon patch or hemangioma, often fade on their own. Others, such a mole, tend to remain on the skin for life.
Yes, a mole is a birthmark when a baby is born with it — or it appears on the skin shortly after birth.
Why a dermatologist should examine your baby’s birthmark
One thing that most birthmarks have in common is that they’re harmless. Yet, if you see a birthmark on your child’s skin, it’s wise to have a dermatologist examine it.
What you think is a birthmark could be the first sign of a skin disease.
It’s also possible that your baby has a harmless birthmark that will grow quickly. Seeing a birthmark grow quickly can be scary. Knowing this will happen and learning what to watch for can help put your mind at ease.
Some birthmarks are a sign that something is going on inside your baby’s body.
By making an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as you notice the birthmark, you’ll know what to expect. A dermatologist can also tell you whether treatment is recommended — be it a birthmark or skin condition.
5 signs your child’s mole needs to be checked
Moles on a child’s skin are generally nothing to worry about. New moles appear during childhood and adolescence. As the child grows, the moles will naturally get bigger. It’s also normal for moles on a child’s skin to darken or lighten. Some moles fade away. These changes are common and rarely a sign of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can begin in a mole.
In fact, melanoma is rare in young children. Even so, there are times when a mole should be checked by a dermatologist just to be sure. Caught early, melanoma is highly treatable.
1. Changing mole – It’s normal for a mole to grow at the same rate as a child. It’s also natural for a child’s moles to get darker or lighter.
If a mole is growing (or changing) quickly, this can be worrisome. A mole can also be worrisome if a change causes the mole to look different from your child’s other moles. Dermatologists call these moles “ugly ducklings.” Such changes can be a sign of melanoma.
Bottom line: A dermatologist should examine any mole on your child’s skin that is growing (or changing) quickly or looks different from the rest.
2. Mole that is dome-shaped, has a jagged border, or contains different colors – If you see a raised, round growth on your child’s skin that is pink, red, tan, or brown, it’s likely a Spitz nevus. This is a harmless mole that usually appears between 10 and 20 years of age. A child can also be born with this type of mole.
The raised surface can be smooth or rough. Sometimes, the surface breaks open and bleeds.
While a Spitz nevus is harmless, it can look a lot like melanoma, the most-serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can bleed, break open, or be dome-shaped. Both a Spitz nevus and a melanoma can have more than 1 color.
Even when viewed under a microscope, this mole often resembles melanoma.
Any spot that looks like those described to above, should be examined by a dermatologist. In some cases, a dermatologist will want to remove it. If the spot isn’t changing, however, a dermatologist may decide to watch it closely. Sometimes, these moles eventually disappear without treatment.
Bottom line: If your child has a raised, dome-shaped growth or a mole that has a jagged border or different colors, a dermatologist should examine it.
3. Bleeding mole – A raised mole can catch on something and become irritated. If a mole bleeds without reason, however, it should be checked. A mole that looks like an open sore is also worrisome. Bleeding or a break in the skin can be a sign of melanoma.
Bottom line: If your child has a mole that starts to bleed or looks like an open sore, a dermatologist should examine the mole.
4. Many moles – It’s normal for a child or teenager to get new moles. By the time a child becomes an adult, it’s common to have 12 to 20 moles.
If your child already has 50-plus moles, however, your child should be under a dermatologist’s care. Some children who have lots of moles get melanoma early in life. An Australian study found that more than half of the 15 to 19-year-old patients with melanoma had at least 100 moles.
Bottom line: A child with 50-plus moles should be under a dermatologist’s care. Caught early, melanoma is highly treatable.
5. Large mole – Most moles are round (or oval) spots that are smaller than the eraser on a pencil.
Some children get larger moles. A large mole can measure 7 inches in diameter or more. A giant mole can blanket part of a child’s body, as shown here. Children with these types of moles are usually born with them. These moles can also appear shortly after birth.
Having a large or giant mole increases the child’s risk of developing melanoma and other health problems. This risk is greater when the child is young. More than half of the melanomas that develop in giant moles are diagnosed by 10 years of age.
Bottom line: A child who has a large or giant mole should be under a dermatologist’s care. Caught early, melanoma is highly treatable.
Checking moles in childhood can create a healthy, lifelong habit
Looking at moles and getting a worrisome one checked can teach your child how important it is to know your moles. If your child starts do this at an early age, it’s likely to become a lifelong habit.