Basal Cell Carcinoma

In the United States, skin cancer is the most common malignant tumor. Basal Cell Cancer will affect one in five Americans. It is most often found on the face, neck, hands, or other parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. The good news is detection is relatively simple and if found early, treatment is simple and usually successful.

Basal cell carcinoma is also called basal cell epithelioma and basal cell cancer. This type of cancer can have many different appearances: a red patch or irritated area; a smooth, shiny and waxy looking bump; a white or yellow scar-like area; a smooth reddish growth; or an open sore that won’t heal, bleeds or oozes. Not all growths on your skin are cancer. A dermatologist often has to take a biopsy to confidently diagnose skin cancer. Pigmented basal cell carcinoma has brown or black pigmentation and may simulate melanoma.

The usual cause of Basal cell cancer is chronic sun overexposure and sunburns. The ultraviolet light in sunlight is a form of radiation, and this damages your skin leading to skin cancer. Much of the sun exposure is from ones youth and leads to cancers that result show up years later. Basal cell carcinoma is usually a problem for people with fair skin and a poor ability to tan. Other determining factors include your family’s history of skin cancer problems and an impaired immune system.

Basal cell carcinoma is less serious than the other two types of skin cancer (melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma). While it rarely metastasizes it will cause extensive local damage if not treated.

The factors that influence the choice of treatment are the size, shape, location and type of basal cell cancer, and the particular expertise of the dermatologist. Other factors to consider are the availability of special facilities, the age and health of the patient and whether cancer is a recurrence of a previously treated site.

Standard treatment of a Basal cell cancer is a small surgical excision to remove the cancer as well as a small strip of healthy appearing tissue.  Large or recurrent basal cell cancers are treated best with Mohs’ surgery (a specialized type of microscopically controlled surgery).

The best way to avoid developing more skin cancers is to protect the skin from further sun damage. Use sunscreen of at least SPF30 and wear a broad brimmed hat. Eat a healthy, low fat diet. Early treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma makes treatment easier, so learn the signs of skin cancer, and check the skin once each month. Promptly seek care for any suspicious growths.