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What Those Birthmarks Mean

Some birthmarks have cute names, like "angel kisses" or "stork bites", but they can be scary for parents. Most are harmless, though, says Elizabeth McBurney, M.D., a dermatology professor at Tulane Health Services Center in New Orleans. Read on:

Type: Mongolian spot
Appearance: A blue-green or blue-gray flat area, usually on the lower back
How common: Most dark-skinned babies are born with a Mongolian spot.
Treatment: None; they are benign and usually disappear by age 4.

Type: Strawberry mark
Appearance: A flat red area that appears in the first month; grows for about six months
How common: Occurs in two out of every 100 babies; more common in females and twins
Treatment: Most disappear in a few years. Facial marks may need to be removed.

Type: Port-wine stain
Appearance: A flat, dark red malformation of blood vessels on the face or limbs
How common: Occurs in three out of every 1,000 children
Treatment: Port-wine stains don't go away, but laser surgery can remove them.

Type: Angel kisses and stork bites
Appearance: A flat pink area between the eyes (angel kiss) or on the neck (stork bite)
How common: Occurs in one out of every ten babies
Treatment: None; many disappear by the second birthday.

Type: Congenital nevus
Appearance: A dark brown or black mole that varies in size and shape
How common: One in every 100 Caucasian children is born with small nevi.
Treatment: Most are no big deal. Laser surgery can remove or lighten larger nevi.

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