What Is Spitz Nevus?

  • Tanvi Shukla Master of Pharmacy - MPHARM, Nirma University

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Overview

It's critical to comprehend frequent skin disorders when it comes to skin wellness. Often called spindle cell nevus of Spitz nevi, Spitz nevus is one such skin ailment that many people may not be aware of. We are going to explore Spitz Nevus in detail in this article, looking at its causes, signs, and treatments.1

What is Spitz Nevus?

Although it can affect people of any age, Spitz Nevus is a benign (non-cancerous) skin lesion that mainly affects children and young adults. The term comes from Dr. Sophie Spitz's 1948 initial description of it. Tiny, elevated, pink, or red skin moles appear as a defining feature of this illness.1  Although spitz nevi can develop anywhere on the body, they most frequently affect the face, arms, and legs.

What Causes Spitz Nevus?

The exact cause of Spitz Nevus is not fully understood, but it is believed to be associated with genetic factors. There isn't enough evidence to definitively correlate Spitz Nevus to UV exposure, despite several research suggesting a potential association. It is evident that this medical condition is not as much related to sun exposure as other skin conditions like melanoma, even though the exact etiology is still being investigated.

Recognizing Spitz Nevus: Symptoms and Appearance

Spitz Nevus typically presents as a raised, dome-shaped, or pedunculated (attached by a stalk) mole. Though its color might vary, pink, crimson, or light brown are the most prevalent colors. Spitz nevi can be as small as a few millimeters or as large as a centimeter. Spitz Nevus is known for its symmetrical appearance, which implies that both halves of the mole would have an almost identical appearance if a line were drawn through the center.2

In addition to their appearance, it's important to note that Spitz nevi do not usually change over time. They remain stable in size and color, and their borders are typically well-defined. While Spitz Nevus is generally harmless, it's crucial to consult a dermatologist if you notice any changes in the mole, as this can be a sign of a more concerning condition.

Who is at Risk?

Spitz Nevus may impact people of various ages, however, it most frequently affects children and young adults. Since there is no gender preference, both men and women may be affected equally. Even though this condition is somewhat uncommon, it's important to understand its symptoms and existence.

Diagnosing Spitz Nevus

Seeking a dermatologist's diagnosis is essential if you discover a mole or skin lesion that resembles a Spitz Nevus.3 Usually, a physical examination of the lesion and, in certain situations, a biopsy is required for the diagnosis of Spitz Nevus. A small portion of the mole is removed during a biopsy, and it is inspected under a microscope to look for any indications of cancer.

Spitz Nevus vs. Melanoma

One of the key concerns when it comes to Spitz Nevus is its potential to be confused with melanoma, a much more serious form of skin cancer.4 Melanoma can be life-threatening if not detected and treated early. While Spitz Nevus and melanoma may share some visual similarities, there are several distinguishing features that can help differentiate them:

  • Age: Spitz Nevus is more common in children and young adults, while melanoma is typically seen in older individuals.
  • Size: Spitz Nevus tends to be small, with a diameter of a few millimeters to a centimeter. Melanomas are often larger.
  • Color: Spitz Nevus is usually pink, red, or light brown, while melanomas can have a broader range of colors, often including dark or irregular pigmentation.
  • Border: Spitz Nevus has well-defined borders, while melanoma may have irregular or blurred edges.

Despite these differences, it's essential to seek professional medical advice if you have any concerns about a skin lesion, as only a dermatologist can provide an accurate diagnosis.5

Prognosis

The prognosis for individuals with Spitz Nevus is generally favorable. These lesions are considered clinically benign, and most cases do not require aggressive treatment. In the event of recurrences, re-excision may be recommended. Atypical Spitz tumors pose a minimal threat of mortality but do have an increased risk of transitioning to melanoma and a moderate risk of spreading to regional lymph nodes.6

Aggressive therapy is usually not required, but it is advisable to regularly check for relapse indicators and the emergence of new melanomas. Some signs of increasing aggressiveness in the lesion include the existence of mitoses (cell division) and inflammation.7 It is important to acknowledge that relying just on morphologic aspects to ascertain prognosis has its limitations and a thorough assessment conducted by a dermatologist is necessary for precise diagnosis and treatment of Spitz Nevus.

Treatment Options 

In most cases, Spitz Nevus does not require treatment, as it is a benign condition. However, some individuals may opt for the removal of the mole for cosmetic reasons or if it becomes irritated or uncomfortable. Removal methods may include excision, cryotherapy (freezing), or laser therapy. It's important to consult with a dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment approach for your specific case.8

Preventing Spitz Nevus

As the exact cause of Spitz Nevus remains unclear, there are no specific prevention strategies for this condition. However, it's always a good idea to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, as it can reduce the risk of various skin issues, including melanoma.9

Summary

Spitz Nevus is a relatively rare but benign skin condition that primarily affects children and young adults. Although it may look like melanoma in some cases, appearance, age, and other peculiarities of skin cancer separate skin cancer from more severe If you have concerns about skin lesions sometimes, it is necessary to consult a dermatologist for diagnosis and consideration of necessary treatment. 

Remember to monitor your skin health and seek medical advice if you notice any changes in acne or other skin conditions. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and taking good care of it is essential for your overall well-being.

  1. Luo, Su, et al. “Spitz Nevi and Other Spitzoid Lesions.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 65, no. 6, Dec. 2011, pp. 1073–84. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2011.04.040.
  2. Dika, Emi, et al. “Spitz Nevi: Diverse Clinical, Dermatoscopic and Histopathological Features in Childhood.” JDDG: Journal Der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft, vol. 15, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 70–75. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddg.12904.
  3. Ahmadi, Neda, et al. “Melanocytic Nevi with Spitz Differentiation: Diagnosis and Management.” The Laryngoscope, vol. 120, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 2385–90. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1002/lary.21149.
  4. Kamino, Hideko. “Spitzoid Melanoma.” Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 27, no. 6, Nov. 2009, pp. 545–55. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2008.09.013.
  5. Barnhill, Raymond L., and Kapil Gupta. “Unusual Variants of Malignant Melanoma.” Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 27, no. 6, Nov. 2009, pp. 564–87. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2008.09.015.
  6. Mones, Joan M., and A. Bernard Ackerman. “‘Atypical’ Spitz’s Nevus, ‘Malignant’ Spitz’s Nevus, and ‘Metastasizing’ Spitz’s Nevus: A Critique in Historical Perspective of Three Concepts Flawed Fatally:” The American Journal of Dermatopathology, vol. 26, no. 4, Aug. 2004, pp. 310–33. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1097/00000372-200408000-00008
  7. Cymerman, Rachel M., et al. “De Novo vs Nevus-Associated Melanomas: Differences in Associations With Prognostic Indicators and Survival.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol. 108, no. 10, Oct. 2016, p. djw121. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djw121.
  8. Beijnen, Usha E. A., et al. “Management of Residual Spitz Nevus in Surgical Specimens Following Biopsy and Excision.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open, vol. 8, no. 12, Dec. 2020, p. e3244. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1097/GOX.0000000000003244.
  9. Brown, Amanda, et al. “Spitz Nevus.” Clinics in Plastic Surgery, vol. 48, no. 4, Oct. 2021, pp. 677–86. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cps.2021.06.002.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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