What is a rodent ulcer?

Rodent ulcer is an old term for what is now called nodular basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. The name, rodent ulcer, was used because of the tendency of this type of basal cell carcinoma to form an ulcer or sore on the skin with ragged edges. This could give the appearance of being gnawed on by a rodent. Another name for this type of basal cell carcinoma is Jacobi’s ulcer.

Basal cell carcinomas are classified based on what the cancer looks like under a microscope. The classification includes nodular, micronodular, superficial, sclerosing or infiltrative. Nodular is the most common type of basal cell carcinoma. Nodular basal cell carcinomas are most often smooth, shiny, and may be skin-toned or pink. The nodules may also appear brown, blue or black. These nodules tend to grow larger over time and may develop a central dimple or depression. After many years, this dimple can eventually form an ulcer or sore with a ragged border of shiny skin.

The skin is the most common site of cancer. It is the largest organ of the body and provides protection, helps regulate body temperature, and plays a role in sensation. Each year about two million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer (Source: Skin Cancer Foundation). Basal cell carcinomas are the most common form of skin cancer and account for about 75% of all skin cancers in the United States (Source: NIH).

The risk factors for developing nodular basal cell carcinoma or rodent ulcer include having fair skin, blond or red hair, and sun exposure. The use of tanning beds also contributes to the development of these cancers. Basal cell carcinomas appear most frequently on the head and neck. They are slow-growing tumors that, left untreated, can grow very wide and deep. Typically, they do not spread to distant sites (metastasize), but they can seriously damage surrounding tissues if they are allowed to grow. Nodular basal cell carcinomas are usually easily treatable and highly curable with early diagnosis.

Skin cancer can be serious. Seek prompt medical care if you notice any suspicious changes in your skin, including sores that do not heal; sores that have a shiny, raised or scaly appearance; or sores that bleed easily. Prompt medical care should be sought for any skin changes that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are changing in appearance or color, or are greater than six millimeters (mm) in diameter.


What are the symptoms of a rodent ulcer?

Basal cell carcinomas are often raised with rounded edges and may have a central dimple.

Common symptoms of a rodent ulcer

Common symptoms of nodular basal cell carcinoma or rodent ulcer include:


How is a rodent ulcer treated?

Treatment of basal cell carcinoma begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a healthcare professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your healthcare professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks of developing basal cell carcinoma. The goal of skin cancer treatment is to permanen... Read more about rodent ulcertreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 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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This Article is Filed Under: Cancer, Skin, Hair and Nails