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Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with it every year. Patients with BCC often develop multiple primary tumors over time.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

1. Basal cell carcinomas are generally non life-threatening but could result in severe complications

For most people, a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is not life-threatening. It tends to grow slowly and rarely spreads to another part of the body. As with most skin cancers, prevention and early detection is key. Although this skin cancer is highly treatable, if given time to grow, it can grow deep into the body, damaging nerves, blood vessels, and any tissue or organ in its path. As the cancer cells pile up and form a large tumor, the cancer can reach into the bone beneath. This can also change the way you look, and for some people, the change may be disfiguring.

2. BCCs have various risk factors

As with most skin cancers, BCCs are generally caused by sun exposure and damage to skin cells due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. BCCs are studied widely around the world since they are so common. There are several factors that increase the risk of a BCC in an individual.

  • Age and sex: BCCs are particularly prevalent in elderly males. However, they also affect females and younger adults

  • History of previous BCC or other forms of skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma)

  • Repeated prior episodes of sunburn

  • Fair skin, blue eyes, and blond or red hair

  • Previous skin injury, thermal burn, or disease

  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, arsenic, or immune suppression due to disease or medicines

That said, BCCs can occur in men and women of all ages and skin types.

3. Diagnosis is relatively straightforward

With the help of dermascopy, a board-certified dermatologist can diagnose one or more BCCs during a skin examination. A biopsy may be performed.

Physician examining skin using a dermatoscope

4. Various treatments are available

Treatment generally involves cryotherapy to remove the damaged skin cells, which are generally located in the epidermis layer. Epidermis regenerates from surrounding cells that have not suffered sun damage. Other treatments can involve surgical excision (cutting and removing), chemical peels, or cauterizing (burning). The choice of treatment depends upon the size of the cancer, its location, how long you have had the tumor, and how much scarring is likely to occur with each treatment. Scarring is generally minimal and our dermatologist recommends a treatment plan to minimize or remove scarring and prevent recurrence.

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