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Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a form of skin cancer that begins within the basal cells, which are the cells that replace old, dying skin cells with new ones. It most commonly forms on areas of the body that are most often exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, and neck. 

What are the symptoms of basal cell carcinoma?

This cancer appears as lesions on the skin. They tend to impact the head and neck, but in some cases, they impact other areas, such as the genitals. These lesions will fit one of the following descriptions: 

  • Brown, black, or blue with a slightly raised and translucent border
  • A scaly, flat patch with a raised edge that grows in size
  • A waxy, white, lesion that resembles a scar without a defined border
  • A skin-colored, shiny bump that may bleed and scar over

What causes basal cell carcinoma?

Excessive exposure to UV rays causes most cases of BCC, which may come from the sun or tanning beds. However, some cases appear on parts of the skin that are not exposed to high levels of UV rays, so there are other, unknown causes. 

Possible risk factors of this cancer include:

  • Fair skin
  • Radiation therapy
  • Increasing age
  • Chronic sun exposure
  • Drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Inherited syndromes that increase the risk of skin cancer
    • Gorlin-Goltz syndrome and xeroderma pigmentosa
  • Exposure to arsenic
  • Family history of skin cancer

How is basal cell carcinoma diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a review of medical history and a physical examination. They will closely investigate one’s skin and may also perform a skin biopsy.

What are the treatments for basal cell carcinoma?

Surgery to remove the cancer is the major treatment option, with procedures such as Mohs surgery and surgical excision. Some patients require other treatments, which may include radiation therapy, topical treatments, photodynamic therapy, freezing, and curettage and electrodesiccation. If the cancer has spread, doctors may recommend chemotherapy or targeted drug therapy. 

Where can I find out more about basal cell carcinoma?

BCC Articles