Lipomas are noncancerous, fatty tissue growths that develop under your skin. They are rarely harmful and typically do not require treatment, according to the National Health Service.

Read on to find out:

  • what lipomas are
  • what they look like
  • what your next steps are should you have one

A lipoma is a growth of fatty tissue that slowly develops under your skin. People of any age can develop lipoma, but you are most likely to see this skin growth if you’re between ages 40 and 60 years old, according the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

A lipoma will generally:

  • be soft to the touch
  • move easily if prodded with your finger
  • be just under the skin
  • be colorless
  • grow slowly

They’re classified as benign growths, or tumors, of fatty tissue. This means a lipoma is not cancerous and is rarely harmful.

You should call a healthcare professional if you notice any changes in your skin. Lipomas can look very similar to a liposarcoma, a rare cancer.

How common are lipomas?

Lipomas are very common. In fact, around 1 in every 1,000 people will develop a lipoma in their lifetime. They typically occur on the upper torso, arms and back but can occur anywhere.

Where do you get lipomas?

A lipoma can form on any part of the body, but they typically appear on the:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • forearms
  • arms
  • thighs

Types of lipoma

There are various types of lipoma. Doctors distinguish the types of lipoma by how tissue appears under a microscope.

Types of lipoma include:

  • Conventional lipoma. This is the most common form of lipoma.
  • Atypical lipoma. These tumors contain deeper fat and a larger number of cells.
  • Hibernoma. This growth contains brown fat instead of mature white fat as in a conventional lipoma.
  • Myelolipoma. The fat tissue in a myelolipoma produces white blood cells, unlike in conventional lipomas.
  • Spindle cell lipoma. As the name suggests, the fat cells in this growth appear spindle-like.
  • Pleomorphic lipoma. This form of lipoma contains fat cells of varying sizes and shapes.
  • Fibrolipoma. A fibrolipoma contains both fat and fibrous tissue.
  • Angiolipoma. If your lipoma contains a large number of blood vessels as well as fat, it is an angiolipoma.

Lipomas may vary in shape and size. Lipomas on different body parts may also appear different. Below are images of varying lipomas.

The most common way to treat a lipoma is to remove it through surgery. This is especially helpful if you have a large skin tumor that’s still growing.

A doctor will typically carry out an excision procedure with you under a local anesthetic. They will make an incision in your skin to remove the lipoma. Once they remove the growth, they will sew up the incision.

Liposuction is another treatment option. Since lipomas are fat-based, this procedure can reduce their size. However, to prevent a recurrence, it is important to remove a lipoma in its entirety, which is not achievable with liposuction. In addition, a lipoma, or a part of it, may be under the muscle, which liposuction cannot reach.

You should check with your insurance provider to see if your plan covers lipoma removal.

The cost of lipoma removal can vary depending on the size of the growth and its location along with the complexity of the procedure. Most lipomas are small and can be removed under local anesthesia in an office setting. These procedures can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000.

However, should you require the use of an operating room and general anesthesia, the cost may be higher.

Healthcare professionals can often diagnose a lipoma by performing a physical exam.

In some cases, a dermatologist might take a biopsy of the lipoma. They’ll take a small sample of tissue during this procedure and send it to a lab for testing.

Medical professionals carry out this test to rule out the possibility of cancer. Although a lipoma is not cancerous, it can rarely mimic a liposarcoma, which is malignant or cancerous.

Further testing using MRI and CT scans may only be required if a biopsy shows that a suspected lipoma is a liposarcoma.

Typically, a lipoma will not cause any adverse health problems. However, a dermatologist can treat the lump if it bothers you. They will make the best treatment recommendation based on a variety of factors, including:

  • the size of the lipoma
  • the number of skin tumors you have
  • whether you have a personal history of skin cancer
  • whether the lipoma is painful

Steroid injections

Steroid injections may also be used directly on the affected area. This treatment can shrink the lipoma, but it does not completely remove it.

The cause of lipomas is largely unknown, although there may be a genetic cause in individuals with multiple lipomas. Around 2 to 3 percent of people who develop a lipoma have a family history of the condition. The condition is also most common in people between ages 40 and 60 years old.

Certain conditions may also increase your risk of lipoma development. These include:

Lipomas are noncancerous fatty growths that typically pose little immediate health risk. Medical professionals can remove these growths through surgery, although this will typically be for cosmetic benefit.

Lipomas are benign tumors. This means that there’s no chance that an existing lipoma will spread throughout the body. The condition will not spread through muscles or any other surrounding tissues, and it is not life threatening. However, your doctor may still monitor your lipoma to track its development.

You cannot reduce the size of a lipoma with self-care. Warm compresses may work for other skin lumps, but they are not helpful for lipomas as they are a collection of fat cells.

See a healthcare professional for treatment if you have any concerns about getting rid of a lipoma.