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Dermatologic Manifestations of Lipomas

  • Author: Robert A Moraru, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Nov 12, 2014


Lipomas are benign tumors composed of mature fat cells. They are the most common benign mesenchymal tumor. Lipomas are found in the subcutaneous tissues and, less commonly, in internal organs. Lipomas usually present with little difficulty in diagnosis or morbidity. Lipomas typically develop as discrete rubbery masses in the subcutaneous tissues of the trunk and proximal extremity. Lipomas usually are a few centimeters in size and can be removed by surgical excision or liposuction. Also see the Medscape Reference general surgery article Lipomas.



Lipomas differ biochemically from normal fat by demonstrating increased levels of lipoprotein lipase and by the presence of a larger number of precursor cells.

Approximately 60% of solitary cutaneous lipomas display clonal alterations. The most common alteration involves a breakpoint on bands 12q13-15. Karyotype aberrations also have been noted on arms 6p and 13q. Multiple lipomas do not display these alterations.[1]





In one study in a Scandinavian population, 43% of benign mesenchymal tumors were lipomas.


No fatalities are reported with cutaneous lipomas. Mild tenderness occasionally is associated with the tumors. Angiolipomas often are tender.


Solitary lipomas are seen predominately in women. Multiple lipomas occur more frequently in men.


Lipomas can occur at any age; however, they usually arise in early adulthood and are rare in children and infants.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Robert A Moraru, MD Staff Physician, Department of Dermatology, St Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center

Robert A Moraru, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD Herman Beerman Professor of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Director, Penn Cutaneous Pathology Services, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Health System

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, American Society of Dermatopathology, Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Received royalty from Lippincott Williams Wilkins for textbook editor.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Janet Fairley, MD Professor and Head, Department of Dermatology, University of Iowa, Roy J and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine

Janet Fairley, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Federation for Medical Research, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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A 43-year-old white man with a 3- to 4-year history of a slow-growing asymptomatic growth on his right shoulder.
A 43-year-old man with a slow-growing asymptomatic growth.
Surgical excision of a 6-cm lipoma on the back of a 54-year-old man using the squeeze technique.
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