Q:

What are the characteristics of cafe-au-lait birthmarks?

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Quick Answer

Cafe-au-lait birthmarks are light brown or light tan in color and usually shaped as an oval, according to WebMD. The flat, hyperpigmented lesions have irregular or smooth but discrete borders and typically range in size from 0.2 to 30 centimeters in diameter, as stated by American Family Physician. They often get larger with age and can be located anywhere on the body, states Everyday Health. Cafe-au-lait spots do not itch or hurt, says KidsHealth.

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Full Answer

Cafe au lait translates to "coffee with milk," which accurately describes the color of these birthmarks, notes Everyday Health. Cafe-au-lait spots are usually present at birth, although they can also appear during the first couple of years of life, as reported by WebMD. As of 2015, there is no known way to effectively prevent cafe-au-lait birthmarks. To prevent complications, people with cafe-au-lait spots should wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 when outside.

The presence of multiple, large-sized cafe-au-lait birthmarks can indicate neurofibromatosis, an inherited disease, notes Everyday Health. Neurofibromatosis causes noncancerous tumors to grow beneath the skin or along nerves, explains KidsHealth. In rare instances, the disease can be disabling.

Laser treatments can diminish the appearance of cafe-au-lait spots, according to Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center.

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