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Abnormal lumps and bumps in the skin can appear anywhere in the body. Fortunately, most of these are benign (not cancer).

If a lump or bump develops within one or two days, and is associated with swelling and pain, it is usually due to an injury or infection. For example, a boil is a painful red bump that is usually caused by bacterial infection of a hair follicle. It can develop into an abscess if the infected fluid is trapped and increases in size. A small lymph node may also feel like a soft bump, which is usually associated with an infection somewhere in the body. If these do not improve within a few days, or get worse with other symptoms such as fever, inflammation and pain, consult a doctor immediately for antibiotic treatment.

Other non-cancerous growths in the skin include:

  • Warts - small, rough, painless hard bumps, that usually appear with black dots, and are caused by skin virus
  • Moles - usually brown, tan or skin-colored; they are harmless as long as they don't change in size or appearance
  • Corns or calluses - skin thickenings that develop as a result of continued pressure (from shoes tight shoe, for example)
  • Sebaceous hyperplasia - also called senile hyperplasia, because it is common in among middle-aged and elderly individuals. This small skin lump consists of soft, yellowish, dome-shaped eruption, which may have a central depression (umbilicated). It is commonly found on the forehead, nose, and cheeks.
  • Lipoma - the most common soft-tissue lump that consists of fat. It is generally slow-growing with a firm and rubbery consistency. Most lipomas are small, but some can reach more than 20 cm in diameter. These are usually asymptomatic, but they can cause pain if they compress adjacent nerves. Lipomas commonly occur on the shoulders, back of the neck, trunk, and armpit, although they can occur anywhere in the body.
  • Cysts - closed sacs under the skin, which may contain pus, fluid, or other material. These are usually slow-growing, painless, and smooth. They may develop due to clogging of oil glands, infection, or due to the presence of a foreign body. They can occur anywhere in the body without causing symptoms, unless they rupture and become inflamed or infected.
  • Dermatofibromas - these firm nodules are found anywhere on the body, but they are most commonly found on the front of the lower legs. It is not clear if they are new growths or if they develop due to reactions to insect bites, minor trauma, viral infections, folliculitis, or ruptured cysts. They may be brown, purple, yellow, pink, or red.
  • Neurofibromas - these are soft, painless, fleshy growths that are found on or under the skin. They may, however, affect a sensory nerve and cause an "electric shock" sensation when touched, or cause pain when it compresses the nerve.

There are other types of harmless lumps that may grow on or under the skin, but some of them can develop into cancer or become enlarged and affect your appearance. If you have a lump or skin growth that looks unusual, feels painful, or changes in size, shape, and color, consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.

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