You may be worried that the soft, moveable lump of fat you just discovered just beneath your skin, called a lipoma, is a cancerous tumor. Not to worry — true lipomas are typically non-cancerous. But some also wonder whether their diet plays a role in getting or managing lipomas.
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All About Lipomas
Aside from the initial alarm lipomas may cause, the Mayo Clinic notes that once your doctor diagnoses a lipoma, it's usually not a medical condition that you need to worry about. A lipoma is typically not painful or a hindrance to your day-to-day activities. In fact, unless its appearance greatly concerns you or it causes other symptoms, there is usually no reason to do anything to treat the lipoma.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that lipomas most commonly appear on the neck, armpits, trunk and shoulders. Though most lipomas cause no pain, there are times when they may require medical attention. Occasionally, for example, a lipoma can press against a nerve and cause pain. Some are large enough that they have blood vessels running through them, which can also be painful, says Mayo Clinic.
While most lipomas do not require treatment, the American Academy of Family Physicians says that there are times when you may want to pursue treatment options for your lipoma. If it's painful or interferes with your daily activities, for example, then treatment may be the right choice for you.
The Mayo Clinic notes that there are two primary treatments for lipoma. The first is to remove the growth surgically. This is usually fairly uncomplicated due to the lipoma's proximity to the surface of the skin, but bruising and scarring can occur in some instances. A surgical technique known as minimal excision extraction can reduce these risks.
The other treatment method that can be used to remove a lipoma is liposuction. This involves using a needle and a large syringe to suck out the growth. The Cleveland Clinic says that liposuction is best reserved for larger lipomas that are harder to remove surgically, but they are associated with a higher rate of recurrence in which the lipoma later grows back.
Read more: Exercise After Lipoma Removal
The Role of Food in Lipomas
Those with lipomas have often wondered whether food plays any role in their growth and development. For example, some have theorized that the keto diet may have a hand in causing lipomas to develop.
The reality, however, is that food doesn't seem to have much of an impact at all in the growth and development of lipomas. "Lipomas may get bigger or smaller depending on overall weight change, but they are genetically determined," says Nadia Khan, MD, a doctor of internal medicine at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Wheaton, Illinois.
While foods do not seem to play any direct role in the development of lipomas, they can contribute to inflammation. For that reason, Mary Opfer, RD, CDN, a dietitian/nutritionist in private practice in Somers, New York, says that it may be a good idea to focus your diet around foods that help to reduce inflammation overall.
"Reducing inflammation is considered a preventive measure," she says. "Foods that decrease inflammation include avocado, orange fruits and vegetables, turmeric, ginger, onions, garlic, nuts, spinach and olive oil. The diet should include a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables, as they have protective properties. People should also avoid a high-fat diet and limit refined sugars, which promote tumor growth."
Read more: Vitamin D Deficiency and Skin Problems
Alcohol and Lipomas
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is one dietary component that can play a role in the development of lipomas, and that's alcohol. A rare condition known as Madelung's disease can occur in men and causes multiple lipomas as a potential symptom. When this rare disease does occur, it is typically in men who drink large quantities of alcohol.
- Mayo Clinic: “Lipoma”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Lipomas”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Lipomas”
- Nadia Khan, MD, internist, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Wheaton, Illinois
- Mary Opfer, RD, CDN, registered dietitian, licensed dietitian nutritionist, private practice, Somers, New York
- Mayo Clinic: "Lypoma - Symptoms and Causes"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.