Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as basal cell cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the basal cells of the skin. Basal cells are a type of cell found in the lower layer of the epidermis that produce new skin cells as the old skin cells die off. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer, and the least likely to metastasize to other parts of the body—though it can spread to nearby bone or tissue if left untreated. Basal cell carcinoma can occur anywhere in the body that basal cells are found, but is most likely to start in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, or neck. Basal cell carcinoma affects more men than women. It can occur at any age, but is more commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 50 years.

Signs and symptoms typically start with changes in skin, and can resemble conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Basal cell carcinoma may also cause one or more of the following:

  • Dark lesions with slightly raised border
  • Dome shaped skin growth with visible blood vessels
  • Flesh or pearl colored bump that will not go away
  • Hard, waxy skin growth
  • Pink or red, flat or raised, scaly patches

The exact underlying cause or causes of BCC are unknown, though increased risk is highly associated with excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight or in the artificial light found in tanning lamps and beds. Other suggested risk factors include age, light skin tone, radiation therapy, a personal or family history of skin cancer, immune suppressing drugs, and exposure to arsenic. Basal cell carcinoma is typically a slow growing cancer. Treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, as well as the patient’s overall general health. Basal cell carcinoma is highly curable if caught in the early stages.

Treatment options for BCC may include one or more of the following:

  • Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED&C)
  • Freezing
  • Medications
  • Mohs surgery
  • Surgical excision
  • Topical treatments