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Congenital melanocytic nevi

Raegan Hunt, MD, PhD
Julie V Schaffer, MD
Jean L Bolognia, MD
Section Editors
Moise L Levy, MD
Hensin Tsao, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Melanocytic nevi (moles) represent benign proliferations of a type of melanocyte known as a "nevus cell." The two major differences between ordinary melanocytes that reside in the basal layer of the epidermis and nevus cells are:

Nevus cells cluster as nests within the lower epidermis and/or dermis, whereas epidermal melanocytes are evenly dispersed as single units

Nevus cells do not have dendritic processes (with the exception of those within blue nevi)

Both melanocytes and nevus cells are capable of producing the pigment melanin. Melanocytic nevi can be congenital or acquired. Congenital melanocytic nevi (CMN) are classically defined as melanocytic nevi present at birth or within the first few months of life.

CMN and speckled lentiginous nevi (a subtype of CMN) will be discussed below. Acquired melanocytic nevi and other benign pigmented skin lesions are discussed separately. (See "Acquired melanocytic nevi (moles)" and "Benign pigmented skin lesions other than melanocytic nevi (moles)".)

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 23, 2017.
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