Whether you call them moles or beauty marks, or nevi, which is the medical term, those little spots can cause enough nervousness in adults. When they start to appear on babies and toddlers, it’s easy to start to worry, but these are the years when it’s totally normal for moles to grow. Since most children are born without them, and most adults end up with between 10 and 45 of them, at some point in these early years, they’re going to appear.
When do moles appear?
Most babies are born without moles, and most moles appear sometime during childhood, into early adulthood. Almost all moles start to appear before the age of 40.
How many moles a person has is mostly determined by genes, but sun exposure can lead to more moles, or darkening of moles that are already there. Sun exposure also increases the risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer that occurs when the cells that produce the pigment in the skin become cancerous. This means that sun protection is especially important for you and your toddler. Avoiding direct sun-exposure during peak hours of the day (from late morning to mid-afternoon), and making sure to apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before going outside, and re-applying regularly if your child is active or sweating, help to provide sun protection that reduces the risk of melanoma, and the darkening and increase of moles.
When should I worry about my child’s moles?
Moles don’t cause any harm. Instead, the worry about moles is that they can be a sign of danger when they are irregular, or are growing in worrying ways. The fact that moles exist isn’t dangerous, though, or even anything to worry about. Instead, what can sometimes be a sign of a problem is when moles change.
Young children’s moles are generally nothing to worry about, even if they’re new – this is exactly the time when it’s normal for them to grow. Melanomas are very rare in babies and toddlers, so moles are usually not a sign of melanoma. It’s normal and expected for moles to grow as the child they’re on grows, so as long as it’s growing at the same rate that they are. Moles that grow faster, out of proportion with the child, on the other hand, can be a cause for concern, and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
The other signs that a mole on a young child might be a cause for concern are the same warning signs that should prompt medical attention for older children and adults.
- Asymmetry: Moles that are irregularly shaped, instead of symmetrical.
- Border: Moles that don’t have a clear border, or that have uneven edges.
- Color: Moles that change in color to black, blue, or red.
- Diameter: Moles that grow disproportionately to the rate that the child is growing.
Moles that have any of these characteristics, and moles that itch or bleed, all should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. Moles that don’t show any of these characteristics are nothing to worry about, and are a normal part of your child’s development.
- Advanced Pediatrics. “Moles: What are they? When to worry?” http://advancedped.blogspot.com/2015/07/moles-what-are-they-when-to-worry.html. Retrieved on 2 May 2017.
- American Academy of Dermatology. “Moles: Overview.” American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/bumps-and-growths/moles. Retrieved on 2 May 2017.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Moles.” Mayo Clinic, 6 December 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/moles/basics/symptoms/con-20019745. Retrieved on 2 May 2017.
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Moles.” Nationwide Children’s Hospital. http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/moles. Retrieved on 2 May 2017.