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 is a type of skin cancer. It develops from skin cells called melanocytes. Melanoma can occur in children, but it is extremely rare.
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 100)
- tend to burn easily in the sun
You're also more at risk of melanoma if either of your parents has had melanoma.
If you are concerened about your risk then speak to your GP.
Any type of cancer is rare in children.
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 - such as SPF 30. 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.
It is also important to reapply sunscreen regularly and to reapply after you have been swimming.