Acral Nevus vs Melanoma: What’s the Difference

Acral Nevus vs Melanoma

Acral Nevus is a harmless skin condition that appears on palms, soles, fingers, or under the nails as specific patches of pigmentation. On the other hand, Melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer that develops in the skin cells. Its main cause is exposure to ultraviolet light, which comes from the sun.

When it comes to skin growth, it’s difficult to distinguish between these two skin conditions due to their similar appearance.

Both conditions affect the skin but vary significantly in terms of origin, risk factors, and potential harm.

In this article, we will discuss their main differences and their symptoms, causes, and treatments options.

Acral Nevus is a mole on the skin that can develop on any part of your body. It is usually seen on the palms of hands, fingers, soles, or toes (peripheral body parts). It is a benign growth characterized by its appearance as a dark-colored patch or bump on these specific regions.

Acral Nevus can vary in size and shape but usually appears as a muscular or slightly raised lesion. The lesion usually appears as a poorly defined flat mole, smaller than 1 cm in size.

It mostly appears on dark-skinned people and can occur at any age, but mostly, it’s seen on people between 10 to 30 years of age.

A study found that 42.0% of black participants had these nevi, while only 23.0% of white participants had them. Moreover, a smaller percentage of black individuals (3.4% or 4 out of 119) had palmar or plantar nevi with a diameter of 6 mm or larger compared to whites (0.6%).

Signs and Symptoms

The most noticeable sign of Acral Nevus is the presence of an abnormal pigmented area on the palms or soles.

Some other signs of Acral Nevus may include the following:

  • Skin lesion color is usually light or dark brown
  • Pigmented area may appear as a bruise, mole, or discoloration
  • The affected area has an irregular shape (which might make us think it could be a melanoma)
  • The lesion size can range anywhere between 1 to 10 millimeters in diameter
  • Moles can appear anywhere on the hand and feet, whether it’s on areas that bear pressure or not.

Causes of Acral Nevus

The exact cause behind the Acral Nevus is still unknown. However, some research scientists have believed these factors can cause its formation:

  • Chronic trauma to the area may lead to the formation of these moles.
  • UV rays of the sun might be involved in the development of Acral Nevus.
  • Changes in hormone levels, particularly during adolescence, can prompt the development of moles.
  • Unstable moles can also cause it

Read what Vitamins that cause your skin to be sensitive to the sun.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a severe type of skin cancer that originates in melanocytes—the cells responsible for producing pigment in our skin. It occurs when these cells start growing abnormally and rapidly multiply beyond control.

Melanoma can also develop in your eyes and, rarely, inside your body, like in your nose or throat. It mostly seems to the people under 40, especially women. Being aware of the warning signs of Melanoma can help you to detect and treat it early before it has a chance to spread.

Unlike Acral Nevus, which is typically benign, Melanoma is a malignant condition that requires prompt medical attention. And it can be treated easily if detected early.

Signs and Symptoms

Melanoma can manifest in various ways, but it often appears as an irregularly shaped, dark-colored mole or lesion on the skin.

Other signs of Melanoma that most people experience are:

  • The shape of one-half of the skin lesion does not match the other.
  • The edges of the mole are notched, uneven, ragged, or fuzzy.
  • The presence of multiple shades, such as black, brown, tan, white, gray, pink, red, or blue
  • Mole size, shape, color, or appearance changes over time
  • Possible itchiness, oozing, or bleeding
  • Usually painless despite changes
  • The texture might end up changing and getting a bit hard or lumpy

Also Read: Which Infection Causes Itching All Over The Body?

Causes of Melanoma

The exact cause of melanoma isn’t fully understood, However, there are some risk factors linked to its development:

  • Exposure to unprotected ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources such as solariums, artificial sources like tanning beds
  • High number of moles or certain types of moles (dysplastic naevi)
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Fair skin, freckling, or light hair
  • History of sunburn or excessive sun exposure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Age, as the risk increases with age
  • Gender, with men at higher risk than women
  • Certain genetic mutations or conditions
  • History of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.

Acral Nevus vs Melanoma

Both Acral Nevus and Melanoma involve pigmented lesions on the skin, but some differences set them apart which include:

  1. Benign vs Malignant: Acral Nevus is usually mild and harmless, whereas Melanoma is a malignant form of skin cancer that is very serious and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
  2. Appearance: Acral Nevus usually appears as a flat or slightly raised brown patch on palms or soles. While, Melanoma often exhibits irregular borders and asymmetry in shape/coloration and may evolve over time.
  3. Risk Factors: While both diseases can be affected by genetic factors and excessive sun exposure, people with numerous moles or a family history of Melanoma are at higher risk for developing Melanoma.
  4. Diagnosis: Diagnosis involves visual examination by a dermatologist followed by further tests such as dermoscopy, biopsy, or imaging techniques to confirm whether the lesion is an Acral Nevus or Melanoma.
  5. Treatment: Treatment options depend on the conditions, whether it is Acral Nevus or Melanoma. Acral Nevus usually doesn’t require any treatment unless it causes discomfort, while Melanoma requires quick medical intervention like surgical removal, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Our advice is to consult with your dermatologist if you notice any concerning changes in your skin to ensure an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


Understanding the contrasts between Acral Nevus and Melanoma is not just essential, it’s lifesaving. This knowledge is essential for early detection and peace of mind.

Acral Nevus is typically a harmless skin condition that appears on palms, soles, and fingers, while Melanoma is a life-threatening skin cancer that develops in your eyes and, rarely, inside your body.

Remember to regularly check your skin for any changes in moles or lesions. If you notice anything unusual, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor.

Any unusual change is a signal to seek medical advice. After all, when it comes to our health, especially something as vital as our skin, prevention and early detection truly is the best defense!


Is Acral Nevus cancer?

No, Acral Nevus is not cancerous. It is a benign growth on the palms, soles, fingers, or under the nails as specific patches of pigmentation.

Should Acral Nevus be removed?

Acral Nevus does not usually require removal unless it causes discomfort or affects day-to-day activities. However, consult with your dermatologist for personalized advice.

What does Acral Nevus look like?

Acral Nevus usually looks like a dark patch or bump on the palms of hands or soles of feet. It may vary in size and shape but generally has a smooth texture without causing pain or discomfort.

Resources of Article

  • Cancer Council:
  • Cancer.Net:
  • Mayo Clinic:


The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Don’t ignore professional medical advice or put off seeking it just because of something you read here. Although we aim to offer precise and current information, we do not guarantee its completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability for any purpose. Using the information in this document is at your own risk. We are not responsible for any losses or damages caused by our content.

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