The Noncancerous Spitz Nevus Mole

Children, teens, and young adults may develop a benign (noncancerous) mole called a Spitz nevus (named for Sophie Spitz, MD, who originally described them in 1948). These nevi (the plural of nevus) generally appear sometime after the age of 24 months and rarely develop on people over 30 years.

A Spitz nevus is typically under 1 centimeter in diameter, firm, raised, and pink or reddish-brown. It may be smooth or scaly. Spitz nevi can appear anywhere on the body, but in children, they are more likely to appear on the face.

Spitz nevi are not harmful, but they can be difficult to differentiate from melanoma, even for experts. A biopsy is thus recommended to confirm the diagnosis. Spitz nevi may be removed surgically, although they can regress on their own.

Spitz nevus is also known as benign juvenile melanoma, nevus of spindle/epithelioid cell type or spindle cell nevus.

Dermatologist examines child
Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

More About Moles

The typical mole is a brown spot. But moles come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes:

  • Color and texture: Moles can be brown, tan, black, red, blue or pink. They can be smooth, wrinkled, flat or raised. They may have hair growing from them.
  • Shape: They can vary in shape from oval to round.
  • Size: Moles are usually less than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters) in diameter—the size of a pencil eraser. Rarely, moles present at birth can be much bigger, covering wide areas of the face, torso or a limb.

Moles can develop anywhere on your body, including your scalp, armpits, under your nails, and between your fingers and toes. Most people have 10 to 40 moles, most of which develop by age 40. Moles may change in appearance over time—some may even disappear with age. Hormonal changes of adolescence and pregnancy may cause moles to become darker, larger and more numerous.

How to Identify Melanoma

This ABCDE guide can help you determine if a mole or a spot may be a melanoma:

  • A is for asymmetrical shape. One half is unlike the other half.
  • B is for border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders.
  • C is for color. Look for growths that have changed color, have many colors or have an uneven color.
  • D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
  • E is for evolving. Watch for moles that change in size, shape, color or height, especially if part or all of a mole turns black.

Cancerous (malignant) moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the features listed above. Others may have only one or two.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

See your healthcare provider if you have a mole that:

  • Is painful
  • Itches or burns
  • Oozes or bleeds
  • Shows any of the ABCDE characteristics listed above
  • Grows back after having been removed before
  • Is new and you’re over 30 years old

If you’re concerned about any mole, see your healthcare provider or ask for a referral to a dermatologist.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sainz-Gaspar L, Sánchez-Bernal J, Noguera-Morel L, Hernández-Martín A, Colmenero I, Torrelo A. Spitz nevus and other spitzoid tumors in children—part 1: clinical, histopathologic, and immunohistochemical features. Actas Dermosifiliogr (Engl Ed). 2020;111(1):7-19. doi:10.1016/j.adengl.2019.12.006

  2. Beijnen UEA, Walsh LR, Nuzzi LC, Schmidt BAR, Labow BI, Taghinia AH. Management of residual Spitz nevus in surgical specimens following biopsy and excisionPlast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2020;8(12):e3244. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000003244

  3. National Cancer Institute. Common moles, dysplastic nevi, and risk of melanoma.

  4. MedlinePlus. Giant congenital nevus.

  5. MedlinePlus. Are moles determined by genetics?

Additional Reading

By Timothy DiChiara, PhD
Timothy J. DiChiara, PhD, is a former research scientist and published writer specializing in oncology.