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Nevus sebaceous, also known as sebaceous nevus or organoid nevus, is a birthmark typically appearing on the scalp or face. It is a benign, non-cancerous skin lesion present at birth or shortly after that.
Nevus sebaceous is characterized by a yellow with a pink or orange hue plaque, with a smooth texture or a slightly raised waxy appearance.
A nevus sebaceous is usually flat in a newborn and gains more texture over time. This is most pronounced during puberty and under the influence of hormonal changes. This birthmark represents a local genetic change, meaning it does not pass from parents to kids. We have not identified any other risk factors contributing to its development.
While nevus sebaceous is generally harmless, it can sometimes be associated with a higher risk of developing other types of skin tumors later in life, such as basal cell carcinoma. As a result, individuals with nevus sebaceous are often monitored by a dermatologist on a regular basis and may be advised to have the lesion removed. The decision for removal is based on medical or cosmetic concerns.
Why Does a Nevus Sebaceous Appear?
Nevus sebaceous is known to be caused by an overgrowth of the sebaceous glands in the skin. The exact cause has not been identified but we do know that the genetic material in the area of the nevus sebaceous is different than the rest of the skin around it.
How is Nevus Sebaceous Diagnosed?
In most cases, this is a clinical diagnosis, which means that a pediatric dermatologist can examine the skin and diagnose it. Sometimes a tiny piece of the skin (skin biopsy) is sent for examination at the lab to confirm the diagnosis.
Are There Any Complications of a Nevus Sebaceous?
Most individuals with a nevus sebaceous do not have any complications from their birthmark. Occasionally, growths develop within them. In most cases, the nevus sebaceous-associated growths are benign (i.e., not cancerous), but in rare instances, the growths can be cancerous. These changes are more likely seen after adolescence and unlikely to take place in childhood. Very large, extensive nevus sebaceous might be linked with developmental problems in the eyes, brain, and skeleton. This is referred to as nevus sebaceous syndrome and, although exceedingly rare, requires complex medical care with multiple specialists.
Regular clinical monitoring is recommended for all nevus sebaceous. If developments like bumps or lumps within the nevus are observed, it may be necessary to do a biopsy or remove the growth to determine the nature of the change. In some cases, surgical removal of the entire nevus sebaceous is recommended.
If removal is being considered, the risks and benefits of the procedure need to be weighed against the risks and benefits of monitoring alone. For example, the benefits of improvement in appearance and possible prevention of sporadic future skin cancers need to be mitigated against the risks of general anesthesia and other risks of skin surgery like scar and infection. Elective removal of nevus sebaceous may be delayed until adolescence, when the procedure may be done in an office setting using local anesthesia. Talk with your pediatric dermatologist to learn about the best treatment plan for you or your child.
We invite you to complete our contact form or call Children’s Dermatology at (949) 679-1990 to schedule a consultation today. We will happily answer any questions and help determine an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment options for your family.