A benign skin tumor happens when cells in your skin grow and form a mass. These tumors don’t contain malignant cells, so they are not cancer. There are many types of benign skin tumors.

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A tumor is an abnormal mass that forms when cells grow and divide too quickly. A tumor can be either malignant or benign.

Skin cancers contain tumors with malignant cells that can start to invade surrounding tissue. Over time, they may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

However, many skin tumors are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. These tumors tend to grow more slowly and do not spread from their original location.

There are many types of benign skin tumors or growths. Below, we describe each type and what they look like.


Dermatofibromas most commonly form in the skin’s dermis. Usually, they’re not painful and feel smooth or firm to the touch. Dermatofibromas are generally pink, red, or brown and dimple when pinched. They most often form on the limbs.

Pyogenic granulomas

Pyogenic granulomas are red, purple, or brown. These growths bleed easily because they contain many blood vessels. They typically appear smooth but can become crusty or scaly if they bleed a lot.

A pyogenic granuloma begins as a small papule and can grow rapidly before stabilizing in size. They tend to appear on the torso, upper limbs, neck, or face.

Epidermoid cysts

Epidermoid cysts forms in the subepidermal layer of your skin, below the epidermis. They’re filled with keratin that’s “cheesy” in texture. These cysts are often painless and dome-shaped. They may be the same color as your skin or slightly discolored.


Lipomas are fatty tumors that form under the skin. They typically don’t change the surface of the skin. They’re slow-growing and can occur anywhere, but they are most common on the trunk, neck, forearms, and upper arms and legs.

A lipoma usually isn’t painful. It feels squishy or soft and may move a bit under your skin when you touch it.

Cherry angiomas

Cherry angiomas are circular or oval-shaped skin growths that form from tiny blood vessels. They may be red, purple, or blue. They’re most common on the torso and limbs and can be flat or slightly raised.

Sebaceous hyperplasia

Sebaceous hyperplasia affects the sebaceous glands in your skin. It typically occurs on the forehead, nose, and cheeks. It may also appear on the upper trunk of your body. It can appear similar to basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

Sebaceous hyperplasia lesions are soft, dome-shaped, and slightly depressed in the center. They may be yellowish or the same color as your skin.


You may know acrochordons by their common name: skin tags. They often appear in areas where skin rubs against skin, clothing, or jewelry. Commonly affected areas include the underarms, neck, and under the breasts.

A skin tag is soft, fleshy, and can have a stalk-like appearance. It may be the same color as your skin or a little bit darker. They can become pink or red when irritated.

Seborrheic keratoses

Seborrheic keratoses are benign, wart-like skin growths. They may develop anywhere on your body except your palms, the bottom of your feet, and mucous membranes. These growths are benign but can resemble cancerous or precancerous skin lesions.

While most seborrheic keratoses are tan or brown, they can also range in color from white to black. Many people have several seborrheic keratoses as opposed to just one. They’re more common as you age.

No, benign skin tumors are not the same thing as stage 1 skin cancer. Because benign skin tumors don’t contain any malignant cells, they are not cancer and cannot be staged as such.

According to the American Cancer Society, benign skin tumors “rarely if ever” become cancerous.

However, it’s important to note that it’s possible for a cancerous skin tumor to be misdiagnosed as a benign skin tumor.

Not all benign skin tumors need to be removed. However, if a benign skin tumor has become large or is causing significant discomfort, a dermatologist may recommend removing it.

If you have a growth on your skin that’s new or concerning, get it evaluated by a dermatologist. They can determine whether it’s benign or potentially cancerous.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not benign. They are actually two types of skin cancer.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 5.4 million diagnoses are made in the United States each year.

Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to visit a dermatologist for any skin lesion that:

It’s also beneficial to have a general idea of what the three main types of skin cancer look like:

  • Basal cell carcinoma often looks like a pink, red, or pearly bump on your skin. It may also be itchy or form a sore that doesn’t heal.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma can appear red, rough, and scaly. It may also look like a sore or ulcer that bleeds.
  • Melanoma can often, but not always, look like a skin mole and be characterized using the ABCDE criteria, which include:
    • Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other half if you were to draw a line across the mole.
    • Border: The border of the mole is jagged or irregular.
    • Color: A multicolored mole is unusual or atypical and needs to be examined by a doctor.
    • Diameter: If the mole is larger than the eraser on a pencil, it needs to be examined by a doctor.
    • Evolving: The mole is noticeably changing in size, color, or shape, or you experience other changing symptoms.

Benign skin tumors are made of cells that have started to grow and divide quickly. They are not cancerous. Benign skin tumors typically don’t need to be removed unless they become large or start to cause discomfort.

Some benign skin tumors can resemble precancerous or cancerous skin lesions. Because of this, it’s important to have a dermatologist check any new or concerning skin lesions to help confirm whether or not they’re benign.