There was a time when unexplained birthmarks, lesions, moles, and other discolorations on the skin were considered a mark of the devil by some and kisses from angels by others.
Halo nevus is a type of lesion that is an uncommon lesion on the skin that is commonly not cancerous and presents no cause for concern. It looks like a mole with a whitish halo around it. It didn’t get its name from being from an angel’s kiss, but from the pigment change around a circular mole or red bump.
“It is also known as Leukoderma acquisitum centrifugum, Perinevoid vitiligo, and Sutton nevus.”
Eventually the lighter pigmented skin (the halo) will overtake the nevus (the center). Over time most halo nevus will disappear but some never do.
Concern Because It Resembles Skin Cancer
A study done from 1994 to 2010 by Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio resulted in additional knowledge of a halo nevus. The results of this study were reported in Journal Watch. Many diseases have symptoms that are common to multiple health issues and the causes of the symptoms that are the most serious get the most press. When this type of lesion first appears it generally causes concern because it resembles skin cancer. Though only a healthcare professional can give a true diagnosis, generally halo nevus lesions are benign and not cancerous, which aren’t likely to get talked about much.
Dermatologists are able to do the tests necessary to determine the cause and determine if melanoma is a risk when the following cause concern:
- Discolored skin
- Skin pigmentation changes
- Red bumps
Once the cause is determined, treatment can begin which can range from topical antibiotics for a staph infection, chemotherapy for cancer, or in the case of halo nevus treatment will not be necessary. Moles and melanoma may overlap the halo and in these cases the border will not be symmetrical like with common cases of halo nevus.
Description of Moles With Halos
A halo around a spot doesn’t necessarily mean that a halo nevus has developed. A red bump or other dark spot with a halo that is red can be a sign of a serious infection. A scab can fall off and result in an area lighter than the surrounding tanned skin, but it is not a halo nevus either. A mole that ranges from nearly black to a dark red with a light colored, almost white circle of skin surrounding it is.
A halo nevus may show up suddenly and there is nothing magical or spiritual about it, even though the name may suggest there is. All that occurs with this type of skin lesion is the skin pigmentation simply changes around the mole. Commonly the mole doesn’t change color, but it may appear to change color due to the contrast between the lighter skin and the mole.
After time the non-pigmented skin that is known as the halo, will spread inward and the mole, red bump, or darker center will disappear. This can occur over several months and it can take several more for the non-pigmented skin that forms the halo to disappear. This process sometimes never occurs or it will occur over years. When this happens it doesn’t mean any kind of angelic touch has been withdrawn, it just means that when the skin regenerated it returned to its natural, original color.
Testing of an Angel’s Touch
When a halo surrounds a small red bump or mole it brings concern that it may be skin cancer. Only a healthcare professional can determine if it is a sign of cancer or not, which is the leading concern for most people. Red bumps that first appear with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus may have a halo but it’ll be reddish and possibly also inflamed around the red bump but not white. It is not common to mistaken halo nevus for MRSA, but it does happen. Generally a melanoma test is the most common test that is done on this type of mole. The types of tests include the following:
- Visual examination of the skin – variations that are of concern
- Medical history – inquiry of if there are symptoms of cancer
- Punch biopsy – small circular piece of skin is removed
- Excision biopsy – the suspicious mole, skin, or blemish is removed along with a small amount of bordering skin
- Incisional biopsy – the most suspicious part of the growth is removed
When it comes to halo nevus it is uncommon for it to be cancerous. When it is removed it is often elective and for cosmetic reasons and rarely for health reasons.
Study Results of Halo Nevus
Though the “Big C” (cancer) is the most frequent fear when there is a change of pigmentation on the skin, it is actually an uncommon cause of halo nevus according to the article The Long, Happy Life of the Halo Nevus. The 6-year study that ended in 2010 compared digital photos of 56 halo nevus and resulted in the following:
- 1 removal for melanoma
- 2 persisting depigmentation without residual nevus
- 4 partial repigmentation
- 6 cosmetic removals
- 7 regressed with halo
- 11 completely repigmentated
- 25 remained unchanged
The study also showed that 78% of the halo nevus did not resolve over 5.6 years. Follow up studies showed that the ones that did resolve took 2.9 to 14.5 years to do so. The length of time that passed when there was no change in the halo nevus ranged from 0.8 to 14.5 years.
The cause of this type of skin lesion or blemish is still a bit of a mystery.
Causes of Skin Lesions
Skin lesions are patches of skin or growths that differ in color, texture, shape, or thickness of the surrounding skin. Cancer is the scariest cause of skin lesions but it is actually a rare cause. There are many more common causes including halo nevus, which is a mole, red bump, or other spot on the skin that is surrounded by a circle of lighter, whitish skin. It resembles an angelic halo around the round blemish in the center, which is how it got its name. Other causes include the following:
- Fungal infection
- Skin ulcer
- Atrophied skin
Lesions on the face, hands, and neck can often be a source of embarrassment and a cause for self-consciousness, which is why even benign causes of the lesions will still be treated, especially in children.
Treatment for Medical and Cosmetic Reasons
Though most halo nevus will go untreated if there is no risk of cancer and often disappear slowly on their own, there are many that are removed for cosmetic reasons if it is on the face, neck or hands. Women are more likely to have them removed even though they can be covered up with make up. Men often can grow facial hair to cover one on their face and hair on other parts of their body will distract from the halo drawing attention.
An angelic face is often pictured with flawless skin, but real people have markings, colorings, and sometime skin lesions that make them unique. Some see it as a blessing while others sees it as a curse. Attitude and self-acceptance contribute to the halo nevus being accepted or removed.
When there are signs of skin cancer the halo nevus will need to be tested and possibly surgically removed. Removal of a cancerous or benign one can leave scaring that may or may not be more noticeable than the original halo nevus. Often scars will lighten faster than the disappearing of the halo nevus.
It doesn’t matter if you believe that the halo nevus is an angelic kiss, mark from the devil or neither, but it does matter if you get it checked if there are any signs of it being cancerous. Early detection of melanoma means reducing the risks of it spreading. Though rare, it is still a risk that should not be ignored. Commonly the halo nevus is just a benign skin blemish that may or may not be removed for cosmetic reasons. For some, the halo nevus is embraced, as part of an individual’s uniqueness and for others looking at the halo around the nevus is a consistent reminder of angelic beings that are believed to live among us protecting us. Each person must decide how they feel about their personal halo nevus.