The body site distribution of melanocytic naevi in 6-7 year old European children

Melanoma Res. 2001 Apr;11(2):123-31. doi: 10.1097/00008390-200104000-00006.


The number and size of melanocytic naevi are the main predictors of cutaneous melanoma. Naevus development per unit of skin surface is greatest during childhood. We assessed the body distribution of naevi 2-4.9 mm and > or = 5 mm in 649 European children aged 6-7 years old from Brussels (Belgium), Bochum (Germany), Lyon (France) and Rome (Italy). The numbers of naevi 2-4.9 mm and naevi > or = 5 mm were strongly correlated, especially on the trunk. For naevi 2-4.9 mm, the highest relative densities were found on the face, back, shoulders and the external surface of the arms. The lowest relative densities were found on the hands, legs, feet and abdomen. The relative density of naevi > or = 5 mm was higher on the trunk than on any other body site. Similar body distributions were observed in both sexes and at each centre. The body site distribution of naevi 2-4.9 mm seemed to parallel the usual sun exposure patterns of young European children. It is suggested that the development of naevi > or = 5 mm might be a marker of the vulnerability of melanocytes to the harmful effects of solar radiation. Vulnerability would be maximal on the back, and would decrease from proximal to distal skin areas, with melanocytes of the hands and feet having the lowest vulnerability. The number of naevi acquired on a specific area of skin would result from the combined effects of local vulnerability to solar radiation and local sun exposure history. The origin of acquired body site differences in the susceptibility of melanocytes to ultraviolet radiation is unknown, although it seems to parallel the body site density of sensory innervation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Child
  • Europe
  • France
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Nevus / pathology*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Sunlight