Risk of melanoma arising in large congenital melanocytic nevi: a systematic review

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Jun;113(7):1968-74. doi: 10.1097/01.prs.0000122209.10277.2a.


Large congenital melanocytic nevi are cutaneous lesions regarded by many as premalignant; estimates of malignancy incidence range from 0 to 42 percent. Given the often complex and extensive nature of large congenital melanocytic nevi resection and reconstruction, the risk of malignant transformation is a crucial factor that surgeons and families must weigh when deciding whether or not to excise the lesion. The authors conducted a systematic analysis of data from the existing literature to critically evaluate the published studies and to establish a crude incidence rate for the risk of malignant melanoma transformation in large congenital melanocytic nevi. After a comprehensive literature search, they analyzed data from eight studies (containing a total of 432 large congenital melanocytic nevi patients) of sufficient scientific quality. Twelve patients (2.8 percent) in this sample developed cutaneous malignant melanoma during the reported follow-up periods. Using a subset of this data and comparing the incidence rates to those of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results population-based database using a standardized morbidity ratio, the authors found that the large congenital melanocytic nevi patients had an increased risk of melanoma (standardized morbidity ratio, 2599; 95 percent confidence interval, 844 to 6064) compared with the general population. Regarding treatment before developing melanoma in the 12 patients, 50 percent were observed before diagnosis, 17 percent had partial excision, 8.3 percent had dermabrasion, 8.3 percent had a chemical peel, and 17 percent did not have any treatment information. These combined data are clinically useful when consulting with the parents of children with large congenital melanocytic nevi and in the management of older patients with existing lesions. This study shows that there is a significantly increased risk of melanoma in large congenital melanocytic nevi patients. The data also reveal the need for a standardized definition of large congenital melanocytic nevi and a long-term, prospective outcomes study to determine the true lifetime risk of melanoma in patients with and without surgical excision.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma / etiology*
  • Nevus, Pigmented / complications
  • Nevus, Pigmented / congenital*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / congenital*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology