What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer occurring in one in five people throughout their lifetime . Basal cell carcinoma is caused by sun exposure through UV rays attacking the basal skin cells in the outer layer of the skin. Basal cell carcinoma can often be confused for a blemish or bump and can appear in any areas of the body exposed to the sun.
Basal cell carcinoma is the least dangerous and easily treatable type of skin cancer and most commonly appears in the head, neck or torso. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly over months or even years and can be easily diagnosed and treated by a GP.
When Is It Given
Electrochemotherapy may be used to treat skin metastases when other treatments havent worked or when surgery isnt suitable.
It can also be given alongside other treatments, or given to skin which has previously been treated with radiotherapy.
Electrochemotherapy may not be suitable for some people with certain lung conditions.
The Five Stages Of Skin Cancer
Cancer in the skin thats at high risk for spreading shares features with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Some of these features are:
- Not less than 2 mm in thickness
- Has spread into the inner layers of the skin
- Has invaded skin nerves
In the earliest stage, cancer is only present in the upper layer of the skin. You may notice the appearance of blood vessels or a dent in the center of the skin growth. There are no traces of malignant cells beyond this layer.
At stage 1, cancer has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs. It measures roughly 4/5 of an inch. Theres a possibility that it may have spread into the inner layer of the skin.
In this stage, cancer has become larger than 4/5 of an inch. Cancer still has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs.
At stage 3, the cancer is still larger than 4/5 of an inch. Facial bones or a nearby lymph node may have been affected, but other organs remain safe. It may also spread to areas below the skin, such as into muscle, bone, and cartilage but not far from the original site.
Cancer can now be of any size and has likely spread into lymph nodes, bones, cartilage, muscle, or other organs. Distant organs such as the brain or lungs may also be affected. In rare cases, this stage might cause death when allowed to grow and become more invasive.
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Burn Like Rash On Skin
The rash may look like a patch on your chest, back, or abdomen. The rash may spread to become small, red, cone-shaped bumps that usually grow in groups. How is an acute rash diagnosed? Your healthcare provider may know what kind of rash you have by looking at it. Tell him or her when and where the rash first appeared.
Are All Moles Cancerous
Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.
In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.
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Does Skin Cancer Affect People With Skin Of Color
People of all skin tones can develop skin cancer. If you are a person of color, you may be less likely to get skin cancer because you have more of the brown pigment, melanin, in your skin.
Although less prevalent than in nonwhite people, when skin cancer does develop in people of color, its often found late and has a worse prognosis. If youre Hispanic, the incidence of melanoma has risen by 20% in the past two decades. If youre Black and develop melanoma, your five-year survival rate is 25% lower than it is for white people . Part of the reason may be that it develops in less typical, less sun-exposed areas and its often in late-stage when diagnosed.
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:
- Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
- Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
- Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
- Tan or use tanning beds.
- Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
- Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
- Have actinic keratosis .
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have had an organ transplant.
- Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
- Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
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Squamous Cell And Basal Cell Warning Signs
The two most common skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma . They both tend to appear on areas of your body that experience a lot of sun exposure. These are the warning signs for a BCC: a pearly or waxy bump flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion bleeding, oozing or scabbing sore wont go away or heals and returns a small, pink bump with a crusted indentation in the middle a scar-like area that is shiny, white or yellow or waxy and taut. If you have an SCC, you might see these on your skin: a firm, red nodule a raised area with an indentation in the middle a spot that regularly bleeds or crusts and wont heal . SCCs are often surrounded by sun damaged skin that is wrinkled, has loss of elasticity, or has pigment changes.
Tracking Changes To Your Skin With An App
Some people find it helpful to photograph areas of their skin such as the back or individual lesions to be able to better spot any future changes.
Over the past years, smartphone apps that can help consumers track moles and skin lesions for changes over time have become very popular and can be a very helpful tool for at-home skin checks.
This page does not replace a medical opinion and is for informational purposes only.
Please note, that some skin cancers may look different from these examples. See your doctor if you have any concerns about your skin.
It might also be a good idea to visit your doctor and have an open talk about your risk of skin cancer and seek for an advice on the early identification of skin changes.
* Prof. Bunker donates his fee for this review to the British Skin Foundation , a charity dedicated to fund research to help people with skin disease and skin cancer.
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What Is The Follow
Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologists office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem.
If you have a more deeply invasive or advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin examinations, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year.
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Symptoms On Black And Brown Skin
On dark skin, it may be easier to feel a lesion than see it. People with black skin may be more likely to find a lesion on a part of the body that has little exposure to the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Skin cancer can affect people with any skin color, but those with brown or black skin are more likely to receive a diagnosis at a later stage. This may be due to a lack of awareness of how skin cancer appears on skin colors other than white.
Anyone who notices an unusual change in their skin should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The medical community has developed two ways to spot the early symptoms of melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
A person can use the ABCDE method or the ugly duckling method.
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How Do You Know If A Spot Is Skin Cancer
You can also read our guide on how to check your skin regularly, if you want to learn more about how to form a skin checking routine for yourself.
What Is The Prognosis For Skin Cancer
Although the number of skin cancers in the United States continues to rise, more and more skin cancers are being caught earlier, when they are easier to treat. Thus, illness and death rates have decreased.
When treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma approaches 95%. The remaining cancers recur at some point after treatment.
- Recurrences of these cancers are almost always local , but they often cause significant tissue destruction.
- Less than 1% of squamous cell carcinomas will eventually spread elsewhere in the body and turn into dangerous cancer.
In most cases, the outcome of malignant melanoma depends on the thickness of the tumor at the time of treatment.
- Thin lesions are almost always cured by simple surgery alone.
- Thicker tumors, which usually have been present for some time but have gone undetected, may spread to other organs. Surgery removes the tumor and any local spread, but it cannot remove distant metastasis. Other therapies, new targeted agents or older approaches such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, are used to treat the metastatic tumors.
- Malignant melanoma causes more than 75% of deaths from skin cancer.
- Of the approximately 70,000 malignant melanomas diagnosed in the United States in 2007, the vast majority were cured. Still, thousands of people die of melanoma each year.
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What You Can Do
If youve already had a BCC, you have an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same sun-damaged area or nearby.
A BCC can recur even when it has been carefully removed the first time, because some cancer cells may remain undetectable after surgery and others can form roots that extend beyond whats visible. BCCs on the nose, ears and lips are more likely to recur, usually within the first two years after surgery.
Heres what you can do to detect a recurrence and safeguard yourself against further skin damage that can lead to cancer:
What To Look For
Signs that you have AKs are often subtle. AKs usually begin as a patch of rough-feeling skin. When rubbed, the rough patch may feel painful. The following images show you what AKs typically look like.
Actinic keratosis often form on the face
AKs tend to be dry, scaly, and pink or red patches on the skin.
Actinic keratosis are common on the backs of the hands
AKs form on skin thats received lots of sun over the years. This patients many age spots and AKs indicate lots of sun exposure. Arrows point to the AKs, which are the reddish pink spots.
Actinic keratosis may be covered with scale
AKs can appear as white, scaly, wart-like growths on the skin, as seen here on this patients hand.
Actinic keratosis usually develop on the face, hands, or bald scalp
While many AKs are red or pink, some appear as brown spots. This man has a brownish AK. Its the spot you see on his nose.
Some actinic keratosis look like age spots
These brown patches, which could be mistaken for age spots, are AKs. Unlike age spots, AKs tend to feel rough.
Actinic keratosis can form on the lip
A white, rough-feeling patch on your lip could be an AK. When an AK forms on the lip, the lips often feel extremely dry and may crack easily. Its especially important to see a dermatologist if you notice any of these changes to your lip.
An actinic keratosis can look like a horn
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What Kind Of Treatment Will I Need
There are many ways to treat melanoma. The main types of treatment are:
Most early stage melanomas can be treated with surgery alone. More advanced cancers need other treatments.
The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage of the cancer
- The results of lab tests on the cancer cells
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the melanoma or help in some way
- Your age
Less Common Skin Cancers
Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Skin Cancer
Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chance for a full recovery. Ninety percent of those with basal cell skin cancer are cured. It is important to continue following up with a dermatologist to make sure cancer does not return. If something seems wrong, call your doctor right away.
Most skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. If you are diagnosed with melanoma:
- The five-year survival rate if its detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes is 66%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 27%.
Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
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A Primer On Skin Cancer
Malignant melanoma, especially in the later stages, is serious and treatment is difficult. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate. Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both are common and are almost always cured when found early and treated. People who’ve had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again they should get a checkup at least once a year.
Curettage Electrodesiccation And Cryotherapy
Some dermatologists perform curettage, electrodesiccation, and cryotherapy to treat skin cancer. These are considered to be destructive techniques that are best suited for small, superficial carcinomas with definite borders. During the procedure, layers of skin cells are scraped away using a curette. Any remaining cancer cells are destroyed with the use of an electric needle.
In some cases, liquid nitrogen or cryotherapy is used to freeze the margins of the treatment area. Extremely low temperatures kill the malignant skin cells and create a wound, which will heal in a few weeks. The treatment may leave scars that are flat and round, similar to the size of the skin cancer lesion.
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How Often Should You Check For Skin Cancer
Yearly skin exams are typically recommended as a preventative measure, says Dr. Crutchfield. In addition to a head-to-toe exam, they can also take photos of any suspicious moles.
A monthly skin-check at home is recommended to check for new lesions or to monitor any changes in atypical moles. Do the skin-check by standing naked in front of a full-length mirror, in a room with good lighting, holding a hand mirror, says Dr. King. . Get a friend or partner to do a check of hard to see places like your back.
Bottom line: There are many types of skin cancer, each of which can look different person to personso go see your doc if you notice any marks on your skin that are new or changing or worrisome.
When it comes to reviewing skin cancer pictures and identifying the big C, Dr. Crutchfields best advice is see spot, see spot change, see a dermatologist.
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