Acquired melanocytic nevi as risk factor for melanoma development. A comprehensive review of epidemiological data

Pigment Cell Res. 2003 Jun;16(3):297-306. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0749.2003.00047.x.


Acquired melanocytic nevi (MN) in Caucasian populations are important markers for the risk of melanoma development. The total number of MN on the whole body is the most important independent risk factor for melanoma and the risk of melanoma development increases almost linearly with rising numbers of MN. Additionally, the presence of atypical MN and of actinic lentigines are likewise independent risk factors for melanoma. Atypical mole syndrome should be defined by the presence of many acquired MN and a threshold number of atypical MN. Acquired MN develops mainly during childhood and adolescence in the first two decades of life. The number of acquired nevi seems to be related to hereditary factors and nevus-prone families exist. The amount of sun exposure is the most important environmental risk factor for nevus development, particularly in early childhood. Interestingly, sunburns may play a role in nevus development, but seem not to be required, and even moderate sun exposure promotes the process. Therefore, preventive measures for nevus and melanoma development should target young children and adolescents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome / pathology
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Melanocytes / pathology*
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / pathology
  • Nevus, Pigmented / pathology*
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Pigmentation