What is a benign lipoma?

A benign lipoma is a collection of fatty cells that form a lump, or a fatty tumor, underneath the skin. They are usually located between the skin and the muscular layer beneath the skin. Benign lipomas are not cancerous and are usually harmless. They are the most common type of soft tissue tumor. Benign lipomas are most often found on the shoulders, arms, trunk and back. However, they can occur anywhere in the body. Benign lipomas are very rare - about one percent of the population has at least one lipoma.


Benign lipomas can occur at any age. However, people who develop benign lipomas are most often between the ages of 40 and 60. It is unclear what causes benign lipomas. They tend to be hereditary meaning they run in families. Because benign lipomas are noncancerous and cannot turn into cancer, they don’t usually need to be removed. It often takes a long time for them to grow to a size that is noticeable to the person who has it. It is common for people who have benign lipomas to have more than one.

Benign lipomas can develop anywhere in the body. The signs and symptoms of benign lipomas include:

·         The lump is located just under your skin. Benign lipomas are commonly found in the neck, shoulders, back, abdomen, arms and thighs.

·         The lump is sometimes painful. Benign lipomas can be painful if they grow and press on nearby nerves or if they contain many blood vessels.

·         The lump is generally small. Benign lipomas are usually less than two inches in diameter. However, they can grow to become larger.

·         The lump feels soft and doughy and is easily moveable when applying slight pressure with the fingers. 

If a benign lipoma grows near a joint or over muscles, it may interfere with the movement of that part of the body. If this happens, the benign lipoma may cause soreness and be uncomfortable. While benign lipomas are not usually removed being that they are noncancerous and do not cause any harm, a person may want to have it removed anyways because it may be causing them discomfort or it looks unattractive in appearance. In most cases though, they are not removed.

The risk factors that may increase your risk of developing a benign lipoma include being between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, having certain other disorders such as adiposis dolorosa, Cowden syndrome and Gardner's syndrome (these people may have an increased risk of multiple lipomas), or if you have a family history of benign lipomas.