Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer.
Skin cancer falls into two major groups: Nonmelanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma, or basal cell skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Most skin cancers are basal cell cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma starts in the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. Most basal cell cancers occur on skin that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation. This includes the top of your head, or scalp.
Basal cell skin cancer is most common in people over age 40. However, it occurs in younger people, too.
You are more likely to get basal cell skin cancer if you have:
Basal cell skin cancer grows slowly and is usually painless. It may not look that different from your normal skin. You may have a skin bump or growth that is:
In some cases the skin may be just slightly raised or even flat.
You may have:
Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.
If your doctor thinks you might have skin cancer, a piece of skin will be removed and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. There are different types of skin biopsies.
A skin biopsy must be done to confirm basal cell skin cancer or other skin cancers.
Treatment depends on the size, depth, and location of the skin cancer, and your overall health.
Treatment may involve:
Radiation may be used if a basal cell cancer cannot be treated with surgery.
How well a patient does depends on many things, including how quickly the cancer was diagnosed. Most of these cancers are cured when treated early.
Some basal cell cancers may return. Smaller ones are less likely to come back. Basal cell carcinoma almost never spreads to other parts of the body.
If you have had skin cancer, you should have regular check-ups so that a doctor can examine your skin. You should also examine your skin once a month. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
Basal cell skin cancer almost never spreads. But, if left untreated, it may grow into surrounding areas and nearby tissues and bone. This is most worrisome around the nose, eyes, and ears.
Call your health care provider if you notice any changes in your skin. You should also call if an existing spot becomes painful or swollen, or if it starts to bleed or itch.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet light is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to avoid sun exposure during these hours. Protect the skin by wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
Always use sunscreen:
Other important facts to help you avoid too much sun exposure:
Examine the skin regularly for unusual growths or skin changes.
Basal cell skin cancer; Rodent ulcer; Skin cancer - basal cell; Cancer - skin - basal cell; Nonmelanoma skin cancer; Basal cell NMSC
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Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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