summer slump sale Save up to 40% today
Medicine (MD/DO)
Skin Cancer
Melanocytic Nevus

Master Melanocytic Nevus with Picmonic for Medicine

With Picmonic, facts become pictures. We've taken what the science shows - image mnemonics work - but we've boosted the effectiveness by building and associating memorable characters, interesting audio stories, and built-in quizzing.

Melanocytic Nevus

Recommended Picmonics

picmonic thumbnail
Actinic Keratosis
picmonic thumbnail
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin
picmonic thumbnail
Basal Cell Carcinoma of the Skin
picmonic thumbnail
Melanoma Mechanism and Characteristics
picmonic thumbnail
ABCDEs of Melanoma

Melanocytic Nevus

Melon Birthmark
Melanocytic nevi are benign skin tumors of melanocytes described as nested proliferations at the dermal-epidermal junction. Two important types include junctional nevi and intradermal nevi. Risk factors include genetics and childhood sun exposure. Although small, each one of these lesions carries a risk of transforming into melanoma.
Benign Tumor of Melanocytes
Benign-bunny Melon-dice

Melanocytic nevi, or moles, consist of a benign proliferation of melanocytes in the skin. Recall that melanocytes produce the pigment melanin. Melanocytes that are not part of a melanocytic nevus typically reside within the basal layer of the epidermis and are organized in a single layer, whereas melanocytes that are part of a nevus are clustered in nests within the epidermis or dermis. Melanocytes that help form a nevus are also sometimes referred to simply as "nevus cells".

Nested Proliferations at Dermal-Epidermal Junction
Nests Pro-lifter Deer-mouse E-pick-deer-mouse

While melanocytes not involved in the formation of nevi are arranged in a single layer along the basal membrane of the epidermis, nevus cells (melanocytes that form part of a nevus) are arranged as clusters or nests along the dermal-epidermal junction and within the dermis. The resulting nevi are referred to as junctional and intradermal nevi respectively.


Junctional nevi, which are composed of nevus cells located at or near the dermal-epidermal junction, are characteristically macular, or flat, and dark in color. The dark pigmentation is conferred by melanin.


Nevi formed by melanocytes clustered together within the dermis, referred to as intradermal nevi, appear grossly as flesh-colored papules. Intradermal nevus cells typically lose their ability to produce melanin, hence therefore they will have a similar pigmentation as the surrounding skin.


Genetics play a large role in the predilection of an individual to develop congenital or acquired melanocytic nevi. Multiple genes have been implicated, such as interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) and telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT).

Childhood Sun Exposure
Child tanning

Degree of sun exposure during childhood plays a role in the development of melanocytic nevi. Particularly, intense and intermittent exposure is thought to increase incidence.


Although the vast majority of nevi a person has remains benign, each one carries a small potential risk of becoming a melanoma, which is malignant. It is important to remember however that over half of melanomas arise de novo, i.e., not in association with any nevus. Although each nevus carries this small risk, it is not recommended that unremarkable nevi be removed prophylactically. Instead, individuals with many nevi are advised to receive routine full-body skin examinations on a regular basis.


Take the Melanocytic Nevus Quiz

Picmonic's rapid review multiple-choice quiz allows you to assess your knowledge.

It's worth every penny

Our Story Mnemonics Increase Mastery and Retention

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Unforgettable characters with concise but impactful videos (2-4 min each)

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Ace Your Medicine (MD/DO) Classes & Exams with Picmonic:

Over 1,900,000 students use Picmonic’s picture mnemonics to improve knowledge, retention, and exam performance.

Choose the #1 Medicine (MD/DO) student study app.

Picmonic for Medicine (MD/DO) covers information that is relevant to your entire Medicine (MD/DO) education. Whether you’re studying for your classes or getting ready to conquer the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, COMLEX Level 1, or COMLEX Level 2, we’re here to help.

Works better than traditional Medicine (MD/DO) flashcards.

Research shows that students who use Picmonic see a 331% improvement in memory retention and a 50% improvement in test scores.