Basal cell carcinoma (Basalioma skin cancer, BCC)
Medically reviewed by Dennis A Porto, MD
More than 3 million US cases per year
- Requires medical diagnosis
- Symptoms: Open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps
- Color: Typicallyred or pink
- Location: Anywhere on the skin most exposed to the sun, especially the face
- Treatment: Excision, cryosurgery, Mohs surgery
Basal cell carcinoma also called Basalioma is the most common type of skin cancer. More than two million cases of this skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
It appears as abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the outermost layer of the skin. The tumor grows slowly and only on the skin, and it almost never grows beyond the original tumor site.
This cancer is usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure. People who use tanning beds have a much higher risk of getting this skin cancer and tend to get it earlier in life. It also particularly affects fair-skinned people who have had high levels of UV and sunlight exposure.
Other forms of skin cancer: Squamous cell carcinoma
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is generally found on exposed skin areas, especially on the face, but also on the trunk and limbs. The affected areas often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars. It is often fragile and might bleed after shaving or after a minor injury.
Here are the main forms of this skin cancer:
Nodular basal cell carcinoma
Most common. Well-defined, solid, a shiny facial lesion with prominent blood vessels which may bleed easily.
Superficial basal cell carcinoma
Persistent red patch of skin that may bleed easily. Often found on the trunk.
Morphoeic basal cell carcinoma
Less common. May look like scarred skin and share features of nodular and superficial basal cell carcinoma. Most often found on the face.
What can I do?
Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is the best way to prevent actinic keratosis.
You can wear a sun hat and clothing to protect your skin from the sun. For the parts that cannot be protected with clothing, such as the face and hands, you can apply sunscreen with a good sun protection factor (SPF). You can consult a pharmacist to choose the best option for you.
It is important to keep track of the changes on you skin and moles. If you notice a skin lesion that has grown or changed in other ways, you should contact your healthcare provider. If the damage grows deeper, skin cancer can develop from actinic keratosis.
Should I seek medical care?
The best way to reduce the risk of basal cell cancer is to avoid being burned by the sun. You can limit your skin’s exposure to the sun by being in the shade, covering with clothes or using sunscreen.
Examine your skin often. If you find new nodules, blushing changes or ulcers on your skin that do not heal on its own, you should seek medical care. These lesions should always be examined more closely. In many cases, they are benign, but it is important to rule out the possibility of skin cancer.
Treatment for Basal Cell Carcinoma
Your dermatologist can usually perform an excision during an office visit. The procedure involves numbing the affected area and cutting out the tumor and skin around it. The doctor then looks at the removed skin and examine if the surrounding skin is free of cancer cells. More skin may be removed if the biopsy suggests otherwise.
Mohs surgery is specialized surgery with the highest cure rate for difficult-to-treat squamous cell cancers. The surgeons cut out the tumor and a small amount of surrounding normal-looking skin. The surgeon then examines the removal under a microscope and continue remove very small amount of skin until no cancer cells is examined.
Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to freeze cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
Other treatments include radiation, medicated creams, pills, photodynamic therapy and curettage and electrodesiccation.
American Academy of Dermatology. Basal cell carcinoma. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma
American Cancer Society. Basal and squamous cell skin cancer treatment. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-basalandsquamouscell/detailedguide/skin-cancer-basal-and-squamous-cell-treating-general-info
Skin Cancer Foundation. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). Available at: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma
Ask a Dermatologist
Anonymous, fast and secure!