What is a Benign Tumor? - Definition, Types & Examples

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Chances are, you've heard the terms ''benign'' and ''malignant'' in reference to tumors, but what do these words mean? Read this lesson to learn more about benign tumors.

Definition of Benign Tumor

A benign tumor is a non-cancerous tumor (as opposed to a malignant tumor, which is cancerous) that forms somewhere in or on the body. A benign tumor does not spread to surrounding tissues or other parts of the body, and it might or might not cause harm, based on its location and size.

Each case of a benign tumor is individually reviewed to determine if treatment is necessary. Unlike malignant tumors, some benign tumors can be left alone and never cause any harm.

Causes of Benign Tumors

What causes a tumor to develop when it isn't cancerous? As with many tumors, scientists are not completely sure. However, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood of a tumor developing. These include radiation exposure (which can be environmental, industrial, or even in the form of radiation therapy treatment for cancer), family history of tumors and/or cancers, diet, stress, injury, and even infection.

Types and Examples of Benign Tumors

There are many types of benign tumors, so let's jump in and start learning about some of them!

  • Adenomas: These tumors form in the tissues that cover glands or gland-like structures in the body. They aren't common and can develop into malignant tumors. One common example is a polyp that has formed in the colon.
  • Fibromas: These tumors develop on connective tissues found anywhere in the body. They're most commonly found in the uterus.
  • Hemangiomas: These tumors are a type of birthmark and are caused by a buildup of blood vessels in a certain part of the body (usually the skin but sometimes another organ). They're most commonly found on the head, neck, or trunk of the body.
  • Lipomas: These are slow-growing tumors that form from fat cells. They commonly run within families, but they also can form as a result of an injury.

An example of a lipoma benign tumor.
lipoma benign tumor

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