Cutaneous Lipomas

Updated: May 10, 2017
  • Author: Marjon Vatanchi, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

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. Most cases are easy to diagnose and do not affect morbidity. Lipomas typically develop as discrete rubbery masses in the subcutaneous tissues of the trunk or proximal extremity. Lipomas are usually a few centimeters in size and can be removed by surgical excision or, less commonly, liposuction. Also see the Medscape Drugs & Diseases general surgery article, Lipomas.

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Pathophysiology

Lipomas differ biochemically from normal fat by demonstrating increased levels of lipoprotein lipase and the presence of a large 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]

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Epidemiology

Frequency

In one study of a Scandinavian population, 43% of benign mesenchymal tumors were lipomas. Overall, the incidence of a lipoma occurs in 1 in 1000 people. [2]

Sex

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

Age

Lipomas can occur at any age; however, they usually arise in early adulthood. Rarely, they can occur in childhood or infancy. [3]

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Prognosis

Cutaneous lipomas can cause mild tenderness, and angiolipomas are often tender. Lipomas are not associated with fatalities.

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