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

People of any age can develop a lipoma, but you are most likely to see this skin growth if you‘re between ages 40 and 60, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Lipomas are very common. In fact, around 1 in every 1,000 people will develop a lipoma in their lifetime.

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. A lipoma can look very similar to a liposarcoma, a rare cancer.

The cause of lipomas is largely unknown.

There may be a genetic cause in people with multiple lipomas. Around 2 to 3 percent of people who develop a lipoma have a family history of the condition.

Some research suggests that lipomas may develop in an area where an injury has caused a significant impact.

A lipoma will generally:

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

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

Types of lipomas 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 the mature white fat that’s 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.

Where can lipoma grow?

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

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • arms
  • thighs

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

  • the size of the lipoma
  • the number of skin tumors you have
  • 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.

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

In some cases, your dermatologist might take a biopsy of the lipoma. During this procedure, they’ll take a small sample of tissue 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 (cancerous).

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

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.

Your 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 it from coming back, it is important that the doctor removes a lipoma in its entirety. This is not as effective or guaranteed with liposuction. In addition, a lipoma (or a part of it) may be under the muscle, which liposuction cannot reach.

If you have insurance, 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
  • location of the growth
  • 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, the cost may be higher if your situation requires an operating room and general anesthesia.

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

In addition to these risk factors, the following conditions may also lead to the development of lipomas:

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.