Causes and Risk Factors of Lipoma

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Lipomas are soft, rubbery, and moveable bumps located under the skin. They are non-cancerous. The exact cause of lipomas is uncertain, but genetics play some role. Lipomas can be inherited or passed down from one generation to the next. They can also be symptoms of rare conditions or associated with certain lifestyle factors.

This article will explore the causes of lipomas and also explain other risk factors that influence whether or not someone develops a lipoma. 

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Common Causes

Lipomas are common. Some 1 in 1,000 people will have a lipoma during their lifetime. What exactly causes lipomas is still largely unknown.

Some conditions that may cause lipomas include:

  • Dercum’s disease: Also known as adiposis dolorosa or Anders’ syndrome, a rare disorder causing painful lipomas.
  • Gardner syndrome: a rare condition associated with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and colorectal polyps or bumps, tumors, and lipomas inside the colon.
  • Madelung’s disease: Also known as multiple symmetric lipomatosis, a condition causing quick or slow-developing lipomas affecting the neck, shoulders, upper arms, hips, and thighs. It is associated with excessive alcohol consumption, particularly in men.

Additional conditions associated with lipomas include:

  • Obesity: May increase a person's risk of developing a lipoma. Obesity or having excess weight on the body is associated with Decrum's disease.
  • Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is associated with lipomas.
  • Liver disease: Disease in the liver is associated with liver lipoma development. Prognosis is typically good with the majority of liver lipomas needing no treatment.
  • High cholesterol: Lipomas are more common in persons with higher levels of cholesterol.


A small percentage of people with lipomas, around 2—3%, develop them due to genetic causes. When this happens, it’s called having multiple lesions inherited in a familial pattern.

Hereditary multiple lipomatosis, or familial multiple lipomatosis, is the clinical term for this disorder that is inherited (passed down through families). 

Having a family member with lipomas does not necessarily mean you will develop them, too. It just means you're slightly more likely to develop a lipoma than someone with no family history of lipomas.

Other Risk Factors

Risk factors do not cause lipomas, and they do not mean you will necessarily experience lipomas, either; they just mean you're slightly more likely to develop lipomas than someone without these factors. Other risk factors for lipoma include:

  • Gender: There is a higher incidence of lipomas reported in cisgender men compared to cisgender women.
  • Age: Lipomas are more common during your 40s to 60s, although they can occur during any life stage (even at birth). 
  • Soft tissue trauma: Some evidence suggests soft tissue trauma causes a release of certain inflammatory chemicals that can trigger the onset of lipoma formation.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you notice a growth under your skin, consider consulting with your healthcare provider. While lipomas are generally slow-growing and not painful, requiring no treatment, you’ll want to be sure to get an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional. Lipomas and liposarcoma (a rare type of cancer that develops in fatty tissues) can appear similarly.  Liposarcoma can spread to vital organs, and treatment is necessary.


Lipomas are non-cancerous lumps under the skin. The exact cause is not known, but there are several contributing factors. Genetics play a role, meaning lipomas run in the family and can be passed down and inherited from one generation to the next. Other causes include certain conditions where lipomas are common symptoms and risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood of developing lipomas like male gender, certain age, soft tissue trauma, obesity, alcohol abuse, liver disease, and glucose intolerance. 

A Word From Verywell

If you feel a lump under your skin, try not to panic. Bear in mind these soft and moveable lumps are more often than not harmless and don’t require any treatment. But, as with any skin changes, it's still important to get an accurate assessment of the lipoma from your healthcare provider. If you do wish to remove a lipoma for any reason, you can also talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.