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How To Know If You Have Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma: What You Need To Know


Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in the world. One out of two people will have a BCC growth before age 65. Although BCC is rarely life threatening, it should be taken seriously. If left untreated, this cancer can be disfiguring, especially on the face.

The information in these pages will help you understand more about BCC: what it is, what causes it, how it is diagnosed and treated, and how you can prevent it.

What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. It begins in the basal cells, the deepest part of the skins outermost layer. Basal cell carcinomas almost never spread beyond their original site to other parts of the body, especially when treated early.

What do basal cell carcinomas look and feel like?

As shown below, basal cell carcinomas vary widely, with a number of different appearances:

  • Open sores that dont heal

  • A round ulcer that looks as though a bite has been taken out of the middle

  • Red patches that have a sandpapery feel

  • Shiny bumps that are raised, hard, pearly pink or gray

  • An area of thickened skin

  • A bump with a rolled edge

  • A lesion with blood vessels that look like the spokes of a wheel

Basal cell carcinomas can occur anywhere on the body they may appear to sit on top of the skin, or burrow into it. Most lesions are painless. Sometimes they can feel itchy. They may bleed easily if caught on clothing or nicked during shaving.

What causes basal cell carcinoma?

How is basal cell carcinoma diagnosed?


How Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Develop

BCC happens when a basal cell has a mutation in its DNA. DNA carries the instructions that tell the basal cell how to make skin cells. However, if it is mutated, this can cause the basal cell to multiply quickly and not die. These multiplying, mutated cells eventually form a cancerous tumor. These tumors can have different shapes and features. This is what defines the subtypes of BCC, including morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.1

How Do You Prevent Basal Cell Skin Cancer

The best way to prevent basal cell carcinoma and other skin cancers is to protect the skin from the sun.

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, and reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid the midday sun, between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sunâs rays are the strongest.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin regularly for new moles, spots, bumps, or growths, and inform your doctor of any skin changes.

In patients who are at higher risk for recurrence of basal cell carcinoma, certain medications may be used, however, studies on the effectiveness of these medications have had mixed results.

  • Celecoxib , a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug , may offer modest risk reduction, but studies on its effectiveness for preventing tumors are mixed.
  • Oral nicotinamide is a vitamin supplement available over the counter. Additional studies are needed to determine its effectiveness in preventing skin cancers. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements because of possible side effects or drug interactions.
  • Topical fluorouracil has been shown to help prevent other skin conditions and precursors to basal cell carcinoma, however, the data are mixed on whether it may help prevent BCC.

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Diagnosis And Treatment Of Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Carcinoma

JONATHON M. FIRNHABER, MD, East Carolina University, Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, North Carolina

Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jul 15 86:161-168.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer, which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, is the most common cancer in the United States. Approximately 80 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and 20 percent are squamous cell carcinoma. Although the National Cancer Institute does not formally track the incidence and prevalence of nonmelanoma skin cancers, multiple longitudinal studies indicate that the incidence has risen sharply over the past two decades.1

How Is Bcc Treated

Basal Cell Carcinoma Definition

Treatment depends on your cancer, the area affected, and any other health conditions you may have:

  • Surgery is the most common treatment. Your healthcare provider will remove the tumor. He or she may look at the tissue pieces with a microscope to make sure all of the cancer cells are removed. He or she may use an electric needle to burn off cancer cells or freeze the tumor with a chemical.
  • Skin medicines may be used to help remove the cancer. This includes medicines that kill the cancer cells directly or help your immune system to attack the cancer cells.
  • Radiation may be used to kill the cancer cell if you cannot have surgery, are older, or have a large tumor.

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Types Of Basal Cell Carcinoma

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma, including:

  • Nodular basal cell carcinoma: Approximately 60-80% of all basal cell carcinomas that present on the face or head are nodular. It is the most common subtype, and it is also known as nodulocystic carcinoma. It presents as a shiny, smooth nodule. It may have a dip in the center, with rolled edges, and blood vessels are often seen to cross its surface.
  • Superficial spreading basal cell carcinoma:Most commonly seen on the upper body, back, and shoulders, this type is more common in younger adults. It presents as shallow, scaly, irregular plaques that are pink or a similar color to the skin itself. Almost all superficial spreading basal cell carcinomas are secondary to sun damage.
  • Sclerosing basal cell carcinoma :This type can be challenging to diagnose. Most commonly seen on the face, it can look like a small, waxy, white scar that expands over time. It can be more dangerous or disfiguring because it is often not recognized as skin cancer until it has grown.
  • Pigmented basal cell carcinoma:Most commonly occurs in people with a darker skin tone, particularly Asians. The pigmentation can be found in the different basal cell carcinoma subtypes and it can appear dark blue, dark brown, or black.

It is possible that you can get more than one type of basal cell carcinoma simultaneously. If you have one type, it increases your risk of getting another. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

When To Visit A Podiatrist

Podiatrists are uniquely trained as lower extremity specialists to recognize and treat abnormal conditions on the skin of the lower legs and feet. Skin cancers affecting the feet may have a very different appearance from those arising on the rest of the body. For this reason, a podiatrists knowledge and clinical training is of extreme importance for patients for the early detection of both benign and malignant skin tumors.

Learn the ABCDs of melanoma. If you notice a mole, bump, or patch on the skin that meets any of the following criteria, see a podiatrist immediately:

  • Asymmetry If the lesion is divided in half, the sides dont match.
  • Borders Borders look scalloped, uneven, or ragged.
  • Color There may be more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.
  • Diameter The lesion is wider than a pencil eraser .

To detect other types of skin cancer, look for spontaneous ulcers and non-healing sores, bumps that crack or bleed, nodules with rolled or donut-shaped edges, or scaly areas.

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The Dangers Of Untreated Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. Brought on typically by overexposure of UV rays , skin cancer can be prevented and oftentimes easily treated. However, if left untreated, no matter which type of skin cancer you have, it will undoubtedly cause severe health complications and may even lead to death. Lets break it down a bit and walk you through what would happen if skin cancer were left untreated.

What Happens If Precancers Go Untreated

Need to know: basal cell carcinoma – Online Interview

As the name suggests, precancers are damaged skin cells that arent considered cancerous, but if they are left untreated, these lesions are at high risk to become skin cancer. There are two main types of precancerous skin conditions: actinic keratosis and dysplastic nevi. Actinic keratosis looks like a rough, scaly patch of the skin that is usually red or brown. This condition may develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.

Nevi are moles, and dysplastic nevi is a term that means a mole is abnormal. Dysplastic nevi may develop into melanoma without proper treatment. While precancerous skin cancers are not malignant on their own, the potential to develop into life-threatening forms of this condition means they need to be evaluated regularly.

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Prognosis Of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Treatment of basal cell carcinoma is nearly always successful, and the cancer is rarely fatal. However, almost 25% of people with a history of basal cell carcinoma develop a new basal cell cancer within 5 years of the first one. Thus, anyone with one basal cell carcinoma should have a yearly skin examination.

What You Should Know About Basal Cell Carcinoma

Although sunshine and outdoor activity aregenerally good for your health and well-being, the fact is that too much exposureto sunlight can be harmful. Skin cancer is one of the most common conditions inAmerica, with around 20 percent of the adult population suffering from a formof skin cancer at some point during their lives.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for manyof these cases, with over four million cases diagnosed every year. Fortunately,while basal cell carcinoma is common, its rarely fatal. Despite that fact,its imperative to understand as much about this disease as possible, as earlytreatment can ensure it doesnt overtly affect your body.

So, with that in mind, lets take a closerlook at BCC what it is, how it affects the body and what to expectafter a diagnosis.

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What Happens If Melanoma Is Left Untreated

Even though this form of skin cancer impacts a relatively low percentage of patients, melanoma skin cancers make up the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma lesions often look like moles, freckles, or sunspots, and they may even develop within an existing mark on your body. Unlike other forms of skin cancer that are slow to progress and unlikely to spread to other areas, melanoma advances quickly and can form or spread anywhere on the body. In order to diagnose melanoma in the earliest stages, patients need to remember the ABCDEFs of melanoma, as discussed above.

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What Is The Best Treatment For A Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinomas

Pro Tip

If treated when small, basal cell carcinomas are easily removed. Dr. MacCormack

If you think you may have skin cancer, make an appointment with a dermatologist . They will examine the lump or sore and also the rest of your body for any other suspicious spots.

If skin cancer is suspected, the doctor will want to scrape or cut off a small piece of the lesion so it can be examined and tested for basal cell carcinoma cells in a laboratory.

If a biopsy confirms BCC, the dermatologist will likely offer several treatment options. Possibilities include in-office surgical procedures to remove the lesion, radiation therapy, or certain medications.

The type of treatment will depend on the size and location of the tumor, plus patient preference where possible. Your dermatologist will help you decide which approach is right for you.

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What Is The Treatment For Primary Basal Cell Carcinoma

The treatment for a BCC depends on its type, size and location, the number to be treated, patient factors, and the preference or expertise of the doctor. Most BCCs are treated surgically. Long-term follow-up is recommended to check for new lesions and recurrence the latter may be unnecessary if histology has reported wide clear margins.

What Do I Need To Know

  • AKs are evidence of sustained sun damage. Having them raises your lifetime risk for skin cancer. Since having one AK means that its likely you have already developed more, this may translate into an especially elevated risk for developing an SCC.
  • An untreated SCC can become invasive and even life-threatening.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Curcumin For Skin Cancer

Q. Do I have to use curcumin creams to protect my skin? Is it OK to take a curcumin supplement?

A. The latest scientific research finds that curcumin creams and curcumin supplements are functionally equivalent in skin care³. Curcumin is more readily absorbed through the skin that from a supplement taken by mouth, but nutritional supplements provide curcumin in a much larger dose.

Q. Is curcumin useful on sun-damaged skin?

A. Taiwanese medical researchers publishing their findings in the medical journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine report that curcumin is specifically helpful in reversing skin damaged caused by the UV-B spectrum of sunlight. It reduces inflammation caused by overexposure to the sun, and initiates the process of apoptosis in cells that have DNA that has been damaged by the sun before they can become cancerous.

Q. What about curcumin for cuts and scrapes?

A. Either a curcumin based cream or a cream that contains turmeric and ginger will accelerate healing of the skin after cuts and scrapes. Apply curcumin creams to skin abrasions as soon as possible, covering the curcumin cream with a bandage so the antioxidant power of the cream is used by the skin, rather than allowing the curcumin to oxidize with exposure to the atmosphere.

Q. Where can I find curcumin-based skin creams?

Q. Isnt eggplant extract a form of curcumn?

Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Considered Malignant

Yes… I have Cancer | Basal Cell Carcinoma | How to Stay Positive

The vast majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. While malignant, these are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body if treated early. They may be locally disfiguring if not treated early. A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas.

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Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

An evidence-based approach to basal cell cancer

Basal cell cancer is relatively common. Patients often first present to the primary care provider with complaints of an abnormal skin lesion. When diagnosed early, it has an excellent prognosis, but if there is a delay in diagnosis, the tumor can advance and lead to significant morbidity. Basal cell cancer is best managed by an interprofessional team that includes a dermatologist, mohs surgeon, plastic surgeon, nurse practitioner, primary care provider, and a dermatopathologist. Basal cell carcinomas typically have a slow growth rate and tend to be locally invasive. Tumors around the nose and eye can lead to vision loss. In most cases, surgical excision is curative. However, because recurrences can occur, these patients need long-term follow up.

When To Seek Medical Care

If you have developed a new bump on sun-exposed skin, or if you have a spot that bleeds easily or does not seem to be healing, then you should make an appointment with your primary care physician or with a dermatologist.Try to remember to tell your doctor when you first noticed the lesion and what symptoms, if any, it may have . Also, be sure to ask your parents, siblings, and adult children whether or not they have ever been diagnosed with a skin cancer, and relay this information to your physician.

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There Actually Are Cases In Which Basal Cell Carcinoma Sometimes Called A Non

Youve probably read that basal cell carcinoma cant spread or doesnt spread, but does cause local destruction if not treated.

But basal cell carcinoma CAN spreadand kill.

Unlike melanomas, basal cell carcinomas usually do not metastasize but instead spread locally, says Dr. Tess Mauricio, MD, FAAD, a leading board certified dermatologist from Stanford University Medical School and CEO of

However, if BCCs are allowed to spread without treatment, there could be a chance for metastasis, warns Dr. Mauricio.

What are the chances of basal cell carcinoma metastasis?

The chances, in terms of percent, have not been determined. However, check out the following:

Metastasis of basal cell carcinoma rarely occurs. Few cases have been reported in the literature.

the occurrence of BCC metastasis is exceedingly rare, with an average rate of approximately 0.03%, typically involving a large, long-standing, locally destructive, recalcitrant tumor of the head or neck.

Cutis, July 2007

To put this in more perspective, here are intriguing excerpts from DermatologyTimes .

A search of the current literature shows that only about 350 cases of metastatic BCC have been reported.

However, with 1 million new cases of BCC every year in the United States alone, Dr. Giannelli says it is very hard to believe, and highly unlikely, that these metastases do not occur more frequently than they are actually reported.

From the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology :

Where Does Bcc Develop

What You Should Know About Basal Cell Carcinoma ...

As the above pictures show, this skin cancer tends to develop on skin that has had lots of sun exposure, such as the face or ears. Its also common on the bald scalp and hands. Other common areas for BCC include, the shoulders, back, arms, and legs.

While rare, BCC can also form on parts of the body that get little or no sun exposure, such as the genitals.

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The Center of Surgical Dermatology is the largest medical and surgical skin treatment and wellness facility in Central Ohio. Since 2007, our board-certified Dermatologists, fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons, and caring professional staff have provided patients with treatment they can trust in an environment second to none. Learn more about our state-of-the-art Dermatology Center before booking your appointment today.


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