What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. In the U.S., more than 4 million cases of BCC are diagnosed each year. It develops in the basal cells that make up the base of the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis. These tend to be slow-growing tumors and rarely metastasize or spread.
What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Like most forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is mainly caused by harmful UV radiation that penetrate your skin during sun exposure or with tanning beds. Long-term sun exposure over your lifetime, occasional extended (that leads to tanning), and intense exposure (that leads to sunburn) combine to cause damage. 85% of basal cell carcinomas occur on the face and neck.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors
Include having fair skin, red or blonde hair and blue or green eyes, heavy sun exposure, 50 years of age or older, exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sun, tanning beds) and therapeutic radiation given to treat an unrelated health issue. Men are also more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than women.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs & Symptoms
Basal cell carcinomas can present in a number of different ways: non-healing pimples or sores, may be slightly raised or flat and appear pearly, waxy or scaly. They may be white, pinkish or brown in color and are often surrounded by visible blood vessels. Despite the different appearances of the cancer, they all tend to bleed with little or no cause.
If you have a scab or sore that frequently bleeds, crusts or oozes and does not heal properly within two to three weeks, or if you notice a scar in an area where you have not been injured, have your skin evaluated by one of our providers to check for basal cell carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment Methods
- Curettage and Desiccation: which scrape away cancer cells and uses electricity to burn them
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery: the preferred method especially for large tumors with the highest cure rate. Mohs combines removal of cancerous tissue with microscopic review while the surgery takes place. By mapping the diseased tissue layer by layer, less healthy skin is damaged when removing the tumor.
- Surgical Excision: surgical removal of the cancerous basal skin cells
- Radiation Therapy: used for difficult-to-treat tumors, either because of their location, severity or persistence