What causes tumors on or under the skin and what should I do about them?

Symptom Database

Have you ever noticed a strange lump or growth on your skin? It can be quite alarming to discover a tumor or any abnormality on or under your skin. In this article, we will explore what causes these skin tumors, how to identify them, and what steps you should take if you find one. Let’s dive in!

Understanding Skin Tumors

Skin tumors, also known as skin growths, skin lumps, or skin lesions, are abnormal growths that can occur on or under the skin. They can vary in size, shape, and color, and may or may not be painful. While most skin tumors are benign (non-cancerous), some can be malignant (cancerous) and require immediate medical attention.

Types of Skin Tumors

There are several types of skin tumors, each with its own characteristics and causes. Here are some common types:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer, usually caused by long-term exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Another common type of skin cancer, often caused by sun exposure or exposure to certain chemicals.
  • Melanoma: This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can develop from existing moles or appear as new growths on the skin.
  • Lipoma: A benign tumor made up of fat cells that usually feels soft and movable under the skin.
  • Fibroma: A benign tumor composed of fibrous or connective tissue that can appear as a small, firm lump on the skin.

Causes of Skin Tumors

The causes of skin tumors can vary depending on the type. Here are some common factors that contribute to their development:

  • Excessive Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to the development of skin tumors.
  • Genetics: Certain genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing skin tumors.
  • Age: The risk of developing skin tumors increases with age, as the skin becomes more susceptible to damage over time.
  • Chemical Exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic or certain industrial chemicals, can increase the risk of developing skin tumors.
  • Immune System Suppression: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing organ transplantation, are at a higher risk of developing skin tumors.

Identifying Skin Tumors

Identifying skin tumors can be challenging, as they can vary greatly in appearance. However, there are some common signs to look out for:

  • Unusual Growth: Any new growth on the skin that is rapidly increasing in size should be examined by a healthcare professional.
  • Change in Color or Shape: If a mole or existing growth changes in color, shape, or texture, it may be a sign of a skin tumor.
  • Bleeding or Itching: Skin tumors may cause bleeding or itching, especially if they are irritated or rubbed against clothing.
  • Irregular Borders: Malignant skin tumors often have irregular or jagged borders, unlike benign growths.

What Should You Do?

If you discover a skin tumor or any abnormality on your skin, it is essential to take the following steps:

1. Consult a Healthcare Professional

Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or your primary care physician to have the skin tumor examined. They will be able to determine whether it is benign or malignant and recommend the appropriate course of action.

2. Get a Biopsy

In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. During a biopsy, a small sample of the tumor is taken and examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous or benign.

If the skin tumor is benign, your healthcare professional may recommend monitoring it for any changes or may suggest removal for cosmetic reasons. If the tumor is malignant, treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the type and stage of cancer.

4. Take Preventive Measures

To reduce the risk of developing skin tumors in the future, it is crucial to take preventive measures, such as:

  • Limiting sun exposure, especially during peak hours.
  • Using sunscreen with a high SPF regularly.
  • Wearing protective clothing, such as hats and long sleeves, when outdoors.
  • Avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps.

By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin tumors.


Finding a tumor or any abnormality on or under your skin can be concerning, but it is essential to take prompt action. Consult a healthcare professional, get a proper diagnosis, and follow the recommended treatment plan. Remember to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of developing skin tumors in the future. Your skin health is crucial, so prioritize regular check-ups and protect yourself from excessive sun exposure. Stay vigilant and take care of your skin!

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment