cause of lipomas

Lipomas are noncancerous soft, fatty lumps that grow under the skin. Typically, they are painless and slow-growing, and while they’re harmless, they can sometimes cause discomfort or concern due to their appearance.

Lipomas can occur anywhere on the body, but are mostly found on the neck, shoulders, arms, and back. While the exact cause of lipomas isn’t fully understood, certain factors are known to contribute to their development. Let’s explore these factors in a bit more detail.

Medical conditions

Lipomas tend to occur more frequently in people with specific medical conditions. Here are some of the key conditions associated with their development:

Gardner’s Syndrome – This is a genetic disorder that causes growths in different areas of the body, including lipomas. People with Gardner’s syndrome often develop multiple benign tumours.

Cowden Syndrome – Another genetic disorder, Cowden syndrome, is characterised by multiple noncancerous, tumour-like growths. Lipomas are a common occurrence in those who have this condition.

Madelung’s Disease – This rare disorder involves the growth of multiple lipomas around the neck and shoulders. It primarily affects middle-aged men, especially those with a history of alcohol abuse.

Adiposis Dolorosa – Also known as Dercum’s disease, this condition leads to painful lipomas throughout the body. The exact cause is unknown, but it tends to affect women more than men.


In some rare cases, lipomas are linked to a faulty gene. This condition, known as familial multiple lipomatosis, is passed down from the parents. If you have a family history of lipomas, there’s a higher chance you might develop them too.

Familial multiple lipomatosis typically develops in adolescence or early adulthood, although lipomas can continue to appear throughout a person’s life. The lipomas associated with this genetic condition are usually noncancerous and grow slowly. However, the number of lipomas and their locations can vary.

Understanding your family’s medical history is crucial. If several family members have had lipomas, it’s worth discussing with your doctor. Early recognition of the genetic link can help in monitoring and managing lipomas effectively.


Research has shown that lipomas can sometimes develop following an injury. When the body experiences trauma, it can trigger the growth of these fatty lumps. For example, one study noted that lipomas could form in response to blunt force injuries, where the trauma might alter the fat cells, leading to a lipoma. Although this is not very common, it is a recognised cause.

Surgical removal of lipomas

If you have a lipoma and notice any changes, such as it growing in size, becoming painful, or turning into a hard lump, it is worth getting a confirmed diagnosis. If a lump is causing distress or is aesthetically displeasing, then you might consider a surgical excision.

This safe and straightforward procedure usually takes just 20 – 45 minutes, with a quick recovery and return to normal activities within a few days. There may be some scarring after, but with proper wound care, this can be kept to a minimum.

To find out more about the surgical removal of a lump, or a known lipoma, book an appointment with Mr Alan Woodward today.

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