A lipoma is a benign lump of fatty tissue that usually lies between your skin and the underlying muscle. And while finding any lump on your body can be scary, lipomas are most likely harmless. However, they still need to be checked by your doctor, just to be safe.

If you have a lipoma, you are not alone: They are the most common soft tissue tumor found in adults, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (1) It’s possible to have more than one lipoma, and they are slightly more likely to occur in men than in women. (1)

Causes and Risk Factors of Lipoma

Medical experts don't know what causes a lipoma, but some think it's a response to a physical trauma. (3) Others think that the lipoma already exists and is brought to light because of the injury.

Here are some possible risk factors:

  • Lack of Exercise As with many things, being physically active may protect you. Some doctors believe that lipomas occur more often in inactive people. (1)
  • Genetics Lipomas often run in families, so genes may play a role.
  • Age Though lipomas can develop in anyone, they are most likely to appear in middle-aged adults between age 40 and 60.
  • Certain Medical Conditions A person may develop one or more lipomas if they have Gardner syndrome (an inherited condition that causes benign and malignant tumors to form), adiposis dolorosa, familial multiple lipomatosis, or Madelung disease (seen mostly in men who are heavy drinkers).

How Is Lipoma Diagnosed?

Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. But in certain cases, they may want to rule out other issues by screening using these tests: (1,4,5)

  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • Biopsies

In most cases, a biopsy isn’t necessary. But your doctor may want to take a small sample of the lump to be examined under a microscope.

The goal of these screening methods is to rule out liposarcoma, a rare cancer of the fatty tissue. Unlike lipomas, liposarcomas are often painful, grow quickly, and cannot be moved around with a finger.

Prognosis of Lipoma

The outlook for lipomas is often very good. Unless the lipomas hurt or continue to grow or change, you won’t need any treatment other than making sure your doctor takes a look during your regular physical exam.

People with lipomas are not more likely to develop liposarcoma. Atypical lipomas may turn into liposarcoma, but it is rare. (1) Atypical lipomas tend to be larger and located in an extremity (like the arms), rather than, say, the torso. (6)

Treatment and Medication Options for Lipoma

A lipoma doesn't usually need to be treated unless it bothers you. Nevertheless, your doctor will recommend scheduling periodic checkups to make sure that the tumor isn’t growing or changing in any way.

If the lipoma is bothering you, is uncomfortable, or is growing, your doctor may suggest having the lipoma removed.

The only treatment that will completely remove the lipoma is surgery. If you do choose to have the lipoma removed, it makes sense to do it while it is still small, since the larger it gets, the more complicated it is to remove. (4) A local anesthetic is typically used to numb the area before surgery, though larger lipomas may call for general anesthesia.

Liposuction may also be used. In this procedure, the lump will be withdrawn through a needle and into a large syringe. According to the Cleveland Clinic, liposuction is associated with a higher rate of recurrence. (2)

Medication Options

Steroid injections are sometimes used to shrink the lipoma, but they probably won’t eliminate it completely. (7)

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

There are no known clinically proven and effective alternative remedies for getting rid of lipomas.

Prevention of Lipoma

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there is no known way to prevent lipomas from forming. (8)

Research and Statistics: Who Has Lipoma?

Lipomas are the most common fatty tumor found in adults and are likeliest to show up in middle age, between age 40 and 60. Their incidence is 2.1 per 1,000 individuals each year. (4) They may affect 1 percent of the population. (4) They are slightly more common in men than women. Five percent of people with lipomas have more than one of them, according to StatPearls. (4)

Related Conditions and Causes of Lipoma

While lipomas are hardly ever cancerous, it’s important to get them checked out so that your doctor can make sure you don’t have liposarcoma.

And while it’s extremely rare, lipomas can sometimes be associated with certain disorders such as multiple hereditary lipomatosis, Gardner syndrome, adiposis dolorosa, and Madelung disease.

Resources We Love

A number of major medical centers and medical organizations offer advice and information about lipomas on their websites:

  • John Hopkins Medicine
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • OrthoInfo (from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Lipoma. OrthoInfo. August 2018.
  2. Lipomas: Overview. Cleveland Clinic. March 18, 2016.
  3. Aust MC, Spies M, Kall S, et al. Post-Traumatic Lipoma: Fact or Fiction? Skinmed. November–December 2007.
  4. Charifa A, Azmat CE, Badri T. Lipoma Pathology. StatPearls. September 21, 2020.
  5. Liposarcoma: Diagnosis and Tests. Cleveland Clinic. July 23, 2019.
  6. Fisher S, Baxter K, Staley C, et al. The General Surgeon’s Quandary: Atypical Lipomatous Tumor vs Lipoma, Who Needs a Surgical Oncologist? Journal of the American College of Surgeons. November 2013.
  7. Salam G. Lipoma Excision. American Family Physician. March 2002.
  8. Lipomas. FamilyDoctor.org. May 12, 2020.
  9. Lipoma. Cancer Research UK. February 20, 2020.
  10. Understanding a Lipoma. Saint Luke’s.


  • Lipoma. OrthoInfo. August 2018.
  • Lipomas: Overview. Cleveland Clinic. March 18, 2016.
  • Salam G. Lipoma Excision. American Family Physician. March 2002.
  • Charifa A, Azmat CE, Badri T. Lipoma Pathology. StatPearls. September 21, 2020.
  • Lipoma. Mayo Clinic. February 7, 2020.
  • Lipomas. Merck Manual. September 2020.
  • Kanoji D, Dakle P, Mayakonda A, et al. Identification of Somatic Alterations in Lipoma Using Whole Exome Sequencing. Scientific Reports. October 2019.
  • Lipoma (Arm). MedlinePlus. April 16, 2019.
  • Benign Tumors: Bone and Soft Tissue. Massachusetts General Hospital.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here