Overview of Spitz Nevus

The Spitz nevus (also known as "spindle cell nevus") is a benign, acquired mole derived from melanocytes (pigment cells). In the past, this condition was a cause for concern because it often was confused with melanoma. Today, Spitz nevi are believed to be benign and are managed more conservatively. This type of nevus generally occurs in children and adolescents, most often on the face and head.

Spitz Nevus Cause

It is presumed that Spitz nevi are derived from the same cells that cause common acquired moles. Heredity does not appear to play a role.

Signs and Symptoms of Spitz Nevus

Spitz nevi usually have a smooth surface, a reddish-brown hue, and are commonly about 6 to 8 millimeters (mm) in diameter. They are typically solitary and most often appear between the ages of 3 and 13 years. Onset is typically quite rapid, usually stabilizing after a period of initial growth. The Spitz nevus may persist until adulthood or it may evolve into a common mole.

Spitz Nevus Diagnosis

Spitz nevi usually are suspected clinically when a child develops a reddish papule on the face. A biopsy usually is obtained in such cases. Many dermatologists recommend excision of a Spitz nevus completely, but conservatively. Recurrence is common with incompletely removed lesions, and they may be difficult to distinguish from melanoma on pathological evaluation. Some Spitz nevi regress on their own.

Spitz Nevus Prevention

There is no known way to prevent Spitz nevi.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2000

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015