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A dermatofibroma is a benign growth that looks and feels like a hard lump. These develop on the skin, usually on the arms and legs. While many dermatofibromas are asymptomatic, others can cause pain, tenderness, and itching sensations, and may need to be removed. Women are more likely to develop dermatofibromas than men, but the reason why they develop is unknown.
Dermatofibromas are usually less than half an inch (0.125 cm) in diameter. Most people will have only one or two growths develop, but some people may develop a small cluster of growths. In rare cases, the number of growths may equal ten or more. Dermatofibromas range in color from black, brown, blue, and purple to red, pink, orange, or yellow. Often the underlying pigment of the patient’s skin can influence the color of the growth. The growths that develop are usually hard to the touch, and may feel tender or painful.
The appearance of a dermatofibroma on the skin is rarely a cause for alarm. There have been a very small number of cases in which such a growth was reported to be malignant; however, these reports have been widely disputed. In all cases except for these few, dermatofibromas are benign, and cannot turn cancerous.
While the exact cause of dermatofibroma development is unknown, these growths are almost certainly neoplastic. The term neoplasm describes a growth that forms as a result of cellular changes which cause cells to divide and grow without being subject to the restraint of the normal cell cycle. In the case of dermatofibromas, the fact that these growths can recur in the same place even if removed demonstrates that it is likely they are neoplastic.
Because dermatofibromas are benign and usually asymptomatic, they do not need to be removed or treated. Some people may choose to have a dermatofibroma removed for cosmetic reasons. In the case of growths which do cause symptoms such as pain and tenderness, some form of treatment may be needed. This usually involves cryosurgery to remove the dermatofibroma. In this procedure the growth is simply frozen using dry ice and then removed.
These procedures are superficial, meaning the growth is not completely removed. Often only the top portion of the lump is cut or shaved away, and this means it is possible for the lump to grow back. For complete removal, it is necessary to remove the entire lump, and some of the subcutaneous fat that surrounds it. This is a minor procedure that can usually be done in a doctor’s office with minimal risk of complications.