Section : History & Terminology

Nevus spilus: why use such a term ?


  • Nevus comes from Latin and translated to: patch present at birth
  • The Greek word of origin: σπιλος = spilos = dirt
  • Translated together it means: dirty nevus


  • It is often understood that nevus spilus is a melanocytic nevus within another melanocytics nevus , or better melanocytic nevi inside another one.
  • Nevus spilus is actually a café-au-lait macule on which are located disseminated melanocytics nevi.
    The café-au-lait is present at birth (congenital) whereas pigmented melanocytics nevi develop during childhood

Differential diagnosis

  • The confusion with a café-au-lait macule (which can occur in neurofibromatosis) is only possible in early childhood before the pigmented melanocytic nevi appear.
  • Becker’s nevus is another possibility (it is not a melanocytic nevus but an organoid hamartoma)
  • Note: melanoma development within a nevus spilus has been reported but remains rare. More commonly a Spitz nevus can be found within a nevus spilus.


Dr Christophe Hsu – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland

Source of information: Harms M. Dermatologica Helvetica (The Swiss Journal of Dermatology and Venereology)