Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that typically develops on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun. Unlike many cancers, the exact cause of basal cell carcinoma is clear. Ultraviolet (UV) rays that come from the sun or are produced by indoor tanning beds are responsible for basal cell skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It is seen most often in individuals who spend a large amount of time outdoors without sun protection or who frequently use indoor tanning beds.

Ultraviolet rays cause basal cell carcinoma by damaging the DNA in skin cells. When the damage occurs repeatedly, the body is unable to repair the skin and skin cancer develops. The majority of basal cell carcinoma is seen in adults over the age of 50, but skin cancer can occur in younger individuals, too.

Basal cell nevus syndrome is a medical condition that increases the risk of getting skin cancer. Those who have the rare condition can develop multiple skin cancers by age 20.

A dermatologist should evaluate any unusual changes in the skin, since basal cell carcinoma can present in many different ways. Sometimes, it develops as a dome-shaped skin lesion that is flattened in the center and oozes or bleeds. Skin cancer can also appear as a sore that won’t heal, or heals and returns; a shiny pink or red scaly patch of skin; a waxy, hard, yellowish growth resembling a scar or a vascular growth with blood vessels in or around it.

If basal cell carcinoma is suspected, your dermatologist will perform a skin biopsy. The procedure can be done in the office and is used to both confirm a skin cancer diagnosis and identify the skin cancer type.

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma depends on the severity and location of the cancer. Treatment options include: surgical excision, curettage and electrodessication (scraping away the tumor and destroying remaining cells with electrical current), Mohs surgery, a chemical freezing technique known as cryosurgery, radiation therapy, photodynamic light therapy or special creams and oral medications.

It’s important to protect your skin from UV damage at any age. Remember to always apply SPF 30 or higher sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and avoid indoor tanning. Perform frequent skin self-exams and see your dermatologist right away if you notice any changes.

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