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Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is a benign lump or mass that is made up of fat cells (adipocytes). Lipomas are a common, benign (noncancerous) type of slow-growing tumor and are the most common benign tumors situated under the skin. They most often develop just under the skin in the subcutaneous tissue, located beneath the skin and above the muscle. Lipomas can grow large in size, and multiple growths can develop, most commonly in the back, neck, shoulders or arms. Less commonly, lipomas can grow on almost any organ in the body.

Lipomas generally develop slowly, forming round, flattened lumps that are soft or spongy in texture and easily moved around under the skin. Lipomas can be unsightly, but they usually do not cause any pain, discomfort or tenderness.

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Lipomas may begin to grow after a tissue injury or trauma, and they tend to run in families. Lipomas primarily occur in people who are middle-aged or older and are rare in children. In most cases, lipomas do not require treatment, although treatment is needed in some cases if the location or size of a lipoma causes pain, weakness, or other problems.

Seek prompt medical care if you develop a lump or swollen area. A determination of whether the lump is benign or cancerous requires a medical examination by a licensed health care provider.  In rare cases, lipomas may occur in conjunction with a more serious condition, such as familial multiple lipomatosis or adiposis dolorosa.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 21, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Gardner Syndrome. National Institutes of Health Office of Rare Diseases Research.
  2. Lipomas.
  3. Learning about Dercum Disease. National Human Genome Research Institute.
  4. Lipoma excision. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  5. Common Benign Skin Tumors. American Family Physician (AAFP).
  6. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

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