Over the next 2 weeks, we will be discussing the 3 types of skin cancer and their treatments, starting with Basal Cell Carcinoma. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of cancer (not just of skin cancer, but of ALL cancers) in the United States – over 2 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the US every year!
What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
BCC is a form of skin cancer that starts in the basal cell layer of the skin, which is the lowest layer of the epidermis. Typically a slow-growing cancer, it is quite treatable if detected early. At an advanced stage, it can cause damage to nearby important structures like the eye, ear & mouth.
What does it look like?
BCC appears on the skin in a few different ways. It can look similar to other skin conditions, like psoriasis or eczema, which is why it is very important to do a skin check and make sure a dermatologist like Dr. B takes a look at any questionable or worrisome spots. BCC typically looks like:
- A pink or skin-colored, dome-shaped growth. The growth may also be brown or black or have flecks of these colors in the growth. Oftentimes, there are visible blood cells, and BCC growths tend to bleed easily. The cancerous tissue may also ooze, crust over or flatten in the center.
- A shiny pink or red patch of skin that may also be scaly. In this instance, it may appear & seem like eczema
- A scar-like growth that is white, yellow, or skin-colored. This type of BCC often has a waxy feel without defined borders/edges.
Where does it appear?
BCC generally appears on areas exposed to sunlight -- the face (especially ears & nose), neck, scalp, back of the hands, shoulders and back. Other areas of the body may also develop basal cell, so it is still important to be aware of ALL growths or lesions on any area of your skin.
Who gets BCC?
Almost all BCCs are caused by overexposure to UV rays – either from the sun or from indoor tanning. BCC is most common in men over 50, but the number of cases involving young adults (esp. women) in their 20s & 30s is increasing due to tanning. A past history of BCC also increases the risk; someone who has already had one BCC has a 40% increased risk of getting another BCC.
How is it diagnosed?
Your dermatologist will do a biopsy on the growth. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which the dermatologist scrapes or shaves off the growth on the skin. The specimen is sent to the lab for diagnosis.
How is it treated?
The treatment options are surgical removal (MOHS surgery), radiation therapy, and topical chemotherapy. The choice of treatment varies due to the location of the cancer, aggressiveness of the cell type, size of the lesion and the health of the patient. MOHS surgery has the most effective cure rate. We will be discussing Mohs surgery in detail on our post next Tuesday (May 20).
For more information on Basal Cell Carcinoma, including pictures, please visit:
The American Academy of Dermatology (http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/basal-cell-carcinoma)
The Skin Cancer Foundation (http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma)