What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is a form of nonmelanoma skin cancer. It is the most common type of skin cancer, responsible for 75% of all skin cancers. It is a very slow-growing tumor that almost never spreads to other parts of the body and is readily curable by surgical removal. While this cancer typically does not spread to other parts of the body, it can penetrate deep into the tissues if not surgically removed (Source: PubMed).

Previously, basal cell carcinoma primarily affected people over 40, but it is now being seen in younger people, too. Being fair-skinned, having a family history of skin cancer, and past sunburns or radiation exposure increase your risk for basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinomas occur in the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. They occur as painless, slow-growing skin spots in areas of the skin exposed to sunlight or other forms of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Basal cell carcinoma typically remains confined to the area where it first occurs, although it occasionally spreads to surrounding areas and nearby tissues and bones.

Basal cell carcinoma can appear as spots that are flat and brown, reddened, or pearly and waxy, usually in areas of the skin where you receive the most sun. These include the neck, the face, back of the ears and neck, and chest. Being aware of these characteristics and performing regular self-checks are helpful. If you see any suspicious growths on your skin, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

Any irregular skin lump or growth should be checked out by a physician. Seek prompt medical care if you notice skin irregularities, especially ones that show recent changes.


What are the symptoms of basal cell carcinoma?

Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma affect the appearance of the skin and are typically visible to the naked eye. Symptoms include:

  • Bump or lump on the skin that is brownish, reddened, or flesh-colored, pearly and waxy, or white or light pink
  • Skin lesion that is slightly raised or flat
  • Sores that are sunken in the middle, bleed easily or fail to h... Read more about basal cell carcinomasymptoms


What causes basal cell carcinoma?

The top layer of skin is known as the epidermis. At the bottom of the epidermis are basal cells, which are continually renewing. Prolonged sun exposure can stimulate cells to continue to multiply, ultimately forming a basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinomas are painless, slow-growing skin lesions. These skin cancers typically remain confined to the area of their occurrence and... Read more about basal cell carcinomacauses


How is basal cell carcinoma treated?

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma starts with contacting your health care provider, who will most likely refer you to a dermatologist. Your skin will be thoroughly checked for suspicious growths, spots or moles, with particular attention to size, shape, color and texture. Suspected skin cancers will be biopsied (removed and examined) to confirm the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma or other sk... Read more about basal cell carcinomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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