Melanocytic nevi in very young children: The role of phenotype, sun exposure, and sun protection

Division of Population Studies and Human Genetics, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland 4029 Australia. <>
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Impact Factor: 4.45). 02/2005; 52(1):40-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2004.07.053
Source: PubMed


Melanocytic nevi are strongly associated with cutaneous melanoma, yet little is known about factors influencing nevus development in the first years of life.
We sought to identify phenotypic and environmental factors associated with nevus counts in very young children.
In a cluster prevalence survey, full body nevus counts and phenotypic assessments were conducted on 193 children aged 1 to 3 years. Information on each child's sun exposure and sun protection practices was obtained through parental questionnaire.
High total nevus counts were associated with heavy facial freckling, time spent outdoors on weekends in summer, and Caucasian ethnicity. Low nevus counts were associated with dark skin color, ability to tan, and frequent application of sunscreen. Frequent wearing of hats was specifically associated with low nevus counts on the face, but not at other sites.
Nevi are common at a very young age among children in Queensland, Australia, and are associated with sun exposure and freckling. Diligent sun protection practices appear to reduce nevus burden, even after accounting for the effects of phenotype and sun exposure factors. Primary prevention strategies aimed at reducing sun exposure in very early life may be effective in reducing nevus prevalence and melanoma risk.

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    • "Given the strong epidemiological associations of nevi with cutaneous melanoma and the inference that at least a proportion of melanomas appear to arise directly from nevi, substantial efforts were made to identify those factors that drive the development of nevi in humans. Epidemiological studies quickly established that high levels of sun exposure predicted higher numbers of nevi in early childhood (English and Armstrong, 1994; Fritschi et al., 1994; Harrison et al., 2000; Kelly et al., 1994; Whiteman et al., 2005). Subsequent studies have since provided convincing evidence that the number of nevi on the skin is under strong genetic control by comparing nevus counts among twins. "
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