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Spitz naevus

Spitz naevus is a rare type of mole. It is not cancer.

What spitz naevus is

Spitz naevus occurs mainly in children and young adults. It is a rare type of mole that might look worrying, but is benign (non cancerous). This means that, unlike a cancer, there's no chance of it spreading to anywhere else in the body.

Spitz naevus used to be called juvenile melanoma, but it's not really accurate to call it this. Melanoma can occur in children, but it is extremely rare (only 1 in 100 melanomas diagnosed in the USA is in a child). It's even rarer in children under 10.

Removing a spitz naevus

Doctors often remove a spitz naevus together with a border of healthy tissue around it. This is so that a specialist can examine the whole of it under a microscope.

Unfortunately, in a small number of cases, spitz naevi can look so much like melanoma that it can be almost impossible even for an expert to tell the difference. If it is impossible to tell if you have a spitz naevus or a melanoma, your specialist will recommend the lesion is sent for a second opinion.

Risk factors for melanoma

We can’t say what your individual risk of getting a melanoma or another suspicious mole is likely to be. Certain people are more at risk of developing melanoma. 

These are people who:

  • are fair skinned and blue eyed
  • have lots of freckles
  • have lots of moles (more than 60)
  • tend to burn easily in the sun

You're also more at risk of melanoma if either of your parents has had melanoma, or has lots of moles.

Staying safe in the sun

Our advice to everyone, children and adults, is to cover up and stay in the shade. If you must go into the sun, wear a high factor sunscreen. And make sure you put enough on, as most of us don’t wear enough sunscreen to give the full protection claimed by the manufacturers.

For an adult, you need about 7 teaspoonfuls to cover yourself completely. Obviously this is only a rough guide. If you're in the sun for a few hours each day, you should be getting through a regular sized bottle every couple of weeks.

Last reviewed: 
09 Dec 2015
  • National Collaborating Centre for Cancer (UK)​ Melanoma: Assessment and Management

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2015

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