Lipoma is a benign tumor of adipose tissue caused by the excessive development of fat cells (fat cells).

Although they can develop anywhere, in most cases they appear on:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • chest
  • back
  • arms
  • thighs

Sometimes they can be located in the deep areas of the body and, therefore, not be visible from the outside:

  • in the chest, close to the heart. In this case, following the increase in its size, the lipoma can cause occlusion of the heart valves
  • in the abdomen, near the intestine
  • in the region of the sacrum
  • at the level of the meningeal sheaths, where it can cause damage to nerve cells (neurons)

Lipomas appear as accumulations of subcutaneous fat wrapped in a capsule of fibrous tissue. They occur in both sexes, without distinction of age and race. Generally, the dimensions vary from one to five centimeters in diameter but, in some cases, they can reach 15 cm. They are of a soft consistency, not painful, mobile at the tactile and therefore easy to identify Lipomas are quite common, with a frequency of about 1 in 100 people It is very rare to develop multiple lipomas in the same person, unless it is the familial hereditary form of multiple lipomatosis.


Generally, lipomas do not cause ailments (symptoms) throughout life. Sometimes, due to their location, they can be annoying, painful and dangerous, as in the case of lipomas developed near the heart or in the meninges. A large lipoma, in fact, can cause an "occlusion of the heart valves or damage from a neurological point of view.


To date, the causes that lead to the formation of lipomas are not fully known.The most accredited hypothesis is genetic predisposition, as indicated by the presence of several cases within the same family.

Other hypotheses advanced by researchers on the development of these formations are:

  • consequence of trauma
  • possible connection with obesity genes


The choice of the method of ascertainment (diagnosis) of lipoma depends on its location.

If it is subcutaneous, the doctor proceeds to:

  • a medical examination with a simple palpation of the lipoma, which has a soft and painless consistency
  • taking a tissue sample for a biopsy
  • ultrasound

In the case of large lipomas, with abnormal characteristics or located deeper than the fat tissue, specific investigations such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT scan may be necessary.

If lipomas are present along the digestive tract, ultrasound endoscopy may be necessary to ascertain their nature.


Lipoma is a benign tumor that usually does not show signs of its presence. In general, it does not create any kind of problem and, in most cases, no cure (therapy) is needed.

Sometimes, it can create cosmetic or other problems, such as pain, inflammation, and discomfort. in these cases, interventions such as:

  • surgical removal, with extensive removal to prevent it from reforming in the same place from which it was eliminated. For small lipomas it can be done under local anesthesia. Larger and / or deeper located lipomas require more complex interventions to be performed under general anesthesia
  • laser therapy, treatment based on the use of electromagnetic energy generated by the laser
  • liposuction, surgical technique used to remove fat deposits
  • steroid injections which, through the activation of lipolysis, reduce the mass of the lipoma, without completely eliminating it


There are currently no ways of prevention of the lipoma, but the general prevention rules are valid for a correct lifestyle such as:

  • body weight, it is important to maintain a healthy weight since the risk of developing various diseases increases with obesity
  • diet, reduce the intake of animal fats, red meats and cured meats and increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables and fiber
  • alcohol, limit consumption to one glass of wine per meal
  • smoke, stop smoking
  • Sun, do not expose yourself in the hottest hours of the day or without adequate protection. Limit the use of tanning lamps


Kolb L, Barazi H, Rosario JA. Lipoma. StatPearls [Internet]. 2020; January 13

Charifa A, Badri T. Lipomas, pathology. StatPearls [Internet]. 2018; October 27

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