A cellular dermatofibroma is a noncancerous skin growth. It may look like a small, firm bump, similar to a mole. Unlike other dermatofibromas, cellular dermatofibromas often attach to your deepest layer of skin. Because they’re noncancerous, they usually don’t need treatment.
Cellular dermatofibromas are a type of dermatofibroma (noncancerous tumor). They appear as firm bumps (nodules), often on your legs.
Cellular dermatofibromas extend deeper into your skin’s layers than other dermatofibromas. Usually, dermatofibromas are superficial, meaning they grow on the top layer of skin (epidermis). Cellular dermatofibromas often grow down to subcutaneous tissue, the deepest layer of your skin.
Compared to other dermatofibromas, cellular dermatofibromas are more likely to come back (recur) after treatment. In about 1 in 10 people, cellular dermatofibromas cause necrosis in the tumor. Necrosis is tissue or cell death in a certain area of your body.
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By definition, cellular dermatofibromas aren’t malignant (noncancerous). But they’re more likely than other types of dermatofibromas to spread to other parts of your body (metastasize).
Anyone can get a cellular dermatofibroma. Dermatofibromas are most common in people ages 20 to 49. Twice as many women as men have dermatofibromas.
Dermatofibromas are somewhat common. About 3 in every 100 skin lesions is a dermatofibroma. A skin lesion is a growth, mole or sore on or in your skin.
About 1 in 5 people who have a dermatofibroma have had an injury or wound where the tumor forms. Sometimes, a dermatofibroma develops spontaneously, for no known reason.
People with conditions that affect their immune system may have multiple dermatofibromas in a cluster. You’re more likely to have a dermatofibroma cluster if you have:
Cellular dermatofibromas look like small round or oval bumps. They’re usually less than 1 centimeter (cm) in diameter. They may be flesh-colored, brown or reddish-brown.
Usually, dermatofibromas form on your arms or legs. They may feel firm to the touch and can be itchy, tender or painful. Sometimes, they’re shaped like a dimple — the center of the lesion falls in, and the edges of the lesion pucker around it.
To diagnose a cellular dermatofibroma, your healthcare provider starts by looking at the lesion. You may have a skin biopsy to confirm if it’s a dermatofibroma or another type of skin lesion.
In a skin biopsy, your healthcare provider removes a small tissue sample. They send your tissue sample to a lab. In the lab, a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in examining body tissues) views it under a microscope.
Because they’re noncancerous, dermatofibromas don’t always require treatment.
If a dermatofibroma is large or causes discomfort, your healthcare provider may remove it. Removal is a short in-office procedure. They may use:
There isn’t a known way to prevent a cellular dermatofibroma. Fortunately, dermatofibromas aren’t cancerous. If you get one, it rarely causes discomfort or harmful symptoms.
Cellular dermatofibromas are more likely to return (recur) after treatment than other dermatofibroma types. Other types of dermatofibromas don’t usually return after treatment. Fewer than 1 in 50 people have a noncellular dermatofibroma come back after removal.
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
You may not be able to tell the difference between a dermatofibroma and a mole at first glance. Cellular dermatofibromas may attach to your subcutaneous tissue. If you gently pinch the skin growth, a dermatofibroma usually creates a dimple or indent. Moles stay raised above your skin’s surface because they don’t attach to the subcutaneous layer.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cellular dermatofibromas are small skin lesions. They’re more likely than other dermatofibromas to attach to your deepest layer of skin. They’re also more likely to spread to other parts of your body. Dermatofibromas aren’t cancerous, so you don’t usually need treatment for them. If the growth is uncomfortable or bothers you, your healthcare provider may remove it. Usually, dermatofibroma removal involves a short, outpatient procedure.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/08/2022.
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