Common benign skin lumps and tumours

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Benign tumour or a skin lump is essentially an abnormal swelling on the skin, that is not cancerous. 

Benign skin lumps and tumours (CA)

What is a benign skin lump or tumour? 

An abnormal skin lump or swelling on the skin, that is not cancerous is referred to as benign tumours. Even when non-cancerous, benign lumps or tumours are a cause of concern. Most skins lumps are often easy to diagnose, but it’s best to carry out a biopsy in the case of any suspicion.

Different types of benign skin lumps or tumours

Pigmented birthmarks:

Skin markings present at birth may include cafe-au-lait spots, moles, and Mongolian spots.

  • Cafe-au-lait spots are light tan, the colour of coffee with milk and may occur in people with the genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis.
  • Moles usually appear after birth and are small clusters of coloured skin cells, which nearly everyone has.
  • Mongolian spots are more commonly seen in darker-skinned populations and are usually bluish or bruised-looking. They usually appear over the lower back or buttocks.

The diagnosis is made based on the appearance of the skin area. Usually no treatment is needed for the birthmark itself, but large birthmarks that affect appearance and self-esteem may be covered with special cosmetics. A biopsy may be performed if the appearance of the birthmark alters -- to check for malignancy.
Moles may be removed surgically if they affect your appearance or have an increased cancer risk. Large moles (congenital nevi) are more likely to become skin cancer (malignant melanoma). Mongolian spots may persist for months or years and don’t become cancerous or develop other symptoms.


Warts are small, usually painless growths on the skin. The typical wart is a raised, round or oval growth on the skin with a rough surface. In comparison to the surrounding normal skin, warts may appear light or dark. They are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). They are, generally harmless but can be disfiguring and embarrassing. Occasionally, they itch or hurt based on their location.

Warts tend to re-occur and also spread from one part of the body to another. Unsightly or painful warts should be treated. Medications such as podophyllin or salicylic acid may be used for removal of persistent warts. Surgical removal or removal by freezing (cryotherapy), burning (electrocautery), or laser treatment may also be needed.

A vaccine called Gardasil prevents infection against the strains of viruses that often cause genital warts and cervical cancer in women.


Boils are very common bacterial skin infections of the hair follicles and nearby skin tissue. They are most common on the face, neck, armpit, buttocks, and thighs.

The bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus, is the most common cause, but boils can also be caused by other bacteria or fungi found on the skin's surface.

Boils begin as a tender, pinkish-red, swollen, firm area -- on the skin. Over time, the pain gets worse as it fills with pus and dead tissue. Fatigue, fever and general ill-feeling may be felt. If the infection spreads, boils can go deeper into the skin and infect tissues underneath. Boils more often increase in discomfort as pus collects, and thus it may have to be drained surgically. Oral and injectable antibiotics will also be given.


An abscess is basically a bag of pus that has collected in any part of the body as a result of infection in that part of the body. Pus is defined as fluid containing living and dead white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria or other foreign substances.

As a prolonged infection would have led to the abscess formation, one is bound to have pain and inflammation.

As such, red, raised, warm skin can be seen and felt. Abscesses can form in almost any part of the body and treatment involves surgical drainage. Antibiotics are also needed before and after the drainage.

Watch this space for more on benign skin lumps and tumours.

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