By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The cause of hemangioma is not yet known, although several studies have indicated that estrogen signalling is an important factor in the proliferation of hemangioma.
Hemangioma is a type of birthmark that exists as a benign tumor of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. Hemangiomas affect around 10% of people and are more common in females, premature babies, babies with a low birth weight and multiple births.
Hemangiomas are not inherited but several members of the same family may have the lesions, simply because they are so common.
Hemangioma usually appear at around two weeks after birth, although deep hemangiomas may not be visible until four months of age. The tumors never develop in adults. Most hemangiomas (nearly 60%) develop in the head and neck areas.
In 2007, researchers suggested that hypoxia of localized soft tissue combined with increased estrogen levels after birth may stimulate the formation of hemangioma.
Researchers from Harvard and the University of Arkansas put forward the hypothesis that the placenta embolizes to the fetal dermis at some point in gestation, which forms hemangioma.
However, further research form Duke University contradicted this hypothesis and research into the cause of hemangioma growth is still ongoing.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2014