Can Lipoma Turn into Cancer?

I want to know if lipoma can turn into cancer because I have just got it on my back and right arm. I do not know what to do.


Doctor Answers 7

Lipoma vs liposarcoma

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It is not that a lipoma becomes a liposarcoma but that without excising them and examining them under a microscope, you can't tell which is which. 99+% are benign lipomas but it would be wise to have them removed formally, not with liposuction since liposuction destroys the architecture and prevents their identification as benign or not.

Lipomas turning into cancer.

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Benign tumors (masses) do not turn into cancers. However, occasionally, a mass which is presumed to be a benign tumor before biopsy or removal and pathologic examination, turns out to be a malignant tumor (cancer). We recommend removing all masses that are large, symptomatic or growing to confirm the masses are benign. A core needle biopsy can be performed if one doesn't want to remove the complete tumor. The majority of soft tissue masses are benign.

Lipoma turning to cancer is rare

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This is somewhat of a controversial area but most soft tissue pathologists feel that a long-standing lipoma does have the capability to transform itself into a liposarcoma.

This was first described by Wolgemuth in 1910 and there have been a number of papers since that time describing this phenomenon. Dr. Steven Hadju, in Pathology of Soft Tissue Tumors, mentions ten cases of his that did this.

Those who are skeptical of this phenomenon, point out that there may have been sampling error in the original specimen ( the benign-looking portion of the liposarcoma was taken) or the pathologist simply misread the diagnosis. Also,some argue that a lipoma was actually a well differentiated liposarcoma all along and was just not aggressive.

However, there are a number of instances when a stable, long-standing lipoma (20 plus years) rapidly enlarged and on removal was determined to be a liposarcoma.

There is a type of lipomosarcoma termed a lipoma-like liposarcoma which can look clinically (when palpated or touched) and histologically like a benign lipoma. This underlines the reason many of us do not feel liposuction should be done on these tumors without a good sampling of their contents.

I would recommend removal on another ground. Sometimes, lipomas can become symptomatic as they encroach on nerves and muscles. Also, they can enlarge an become physiciall quite deforming.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Lipoma cannot turn into cancer but you need tissue diagnosis to know for sure

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A true lipoma is not cancerous and will not turn into a cancerous tumor. Determining if a tumor is a lipoma though requires making a tissue diagnosis -- ie removing the tumor and examining it under a microscope. There is a rather unusual tumor called a liposarcoma which is a cancer. It is impossible to tell the difference between a liposarcoma and a lipoma based solely on physical examination or any imaging study (CT scan or MRI). If there is any doubt, take some kind of biopsy.

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

A Lipoma cannot turn into a Cancerous lesion

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By definition, a Lipoma is a benign growth which does NOT turn into a cancerous tumor. However, even though we tend to call EVERY fatty tumor a "Lipoma", in reality we are guessing and playing the 99.9% odds that the tumor IS a benign tumor (because only a small number are not). To know for sure the identity of ANY mass or lesion, it needs to be presented to a Pathologist to look at under the microscope. Only a pathologist can officially determine the identity of any mass.

The most prudent thing to do is to have the mass removed when it is still small, to minimize your scarring and know definitively what it is. Odds are it would be a (benign) Lipoma.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Los Angeles lipoma removal

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Lipomas can mimic cancer and vice-versa. It is always advisable to remove lipomas before they enlarge.  A pathologic specimen is sent to evaluate the tumor with a microscope. 

Raffy Karamanoukian MD FACS

Lipoma or Liposarcoma?

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Lipomas are the most common benign tumor;  they are composed of adipose tissue. Sometimes these soft,  usually mobile  masses can grow in size and become an aesthetic or functional concern.

Malignant transformation of lipomas into liposarcomas  it's extremely rare ( and controversial).

Generally, I  recommend excision to allow for pathologic evaluation (which is the only  way to make a definitive diagnosis) and to  alleviate compressive symptoms it may be causing (as well as for cosmetic purposes).

Best wishes. 

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.