Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer with over four million cases are diagnosed in the US each year. Basal Cell Carcinoma is abnormal, uncontrolled growth in the basal cells of the epidermis (the top layer of skin).  It can resemble other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, so it is important to see a dermatologist promptly if you notice anything different with your skin. This form of cancer rarely spreads to other organ systems but if not treated in a timely manner, could result in nerve or muscle injury.  Aggressive forms of basal cell carcinoma are uncommon but can be lethal.

What are the symptoms?

Open sores, red patches, shiny bumps, or scars in areas where you can’t recall an injury are the most obvious symptoms. Basal cell carcinoma generally occurs in areas that receive consistent sun exposure, such as the face, limbs, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. But sometimes basal cell carcinoma may occur in other areas, particularly if you’ve had contact with arsenic or radiation, or if you have had an inflammatory skin condition, an infection, or an injury (such as a burn) that resists healing. Sometimes basal cell carcinoma even shows up at the site of tattoos.

Who gets it?

Anyone can get basal cell carcinoma, but it is rarely found in young children. If you spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors, you are at increased risk. You’re also at greater risk if you have fair skin and light hair and eyes. Once you’ve had one incident of basal cell carcinoma, you should be extra-careful in the sun and never miss a regular skin exam, because you are more likely to have other occurrences.  

What is the treatment?

Usually, the cancerous area is removed and in the case of a large excision, sometimes a skin graft may be necessary to facilitate healing and offer the best cosmetic result. Sometimes your dermatologist will suggest other treatment methods, particularly if a basal cell carcinoma recurs in the same area.

Prevention Methods

Practice safety in the sun! Our dermatologists recommend avoiding direct sun when it’s rays are at their peak, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you are in the sun, wear protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, and a high spf mineral sunscreen. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after water. Never go to tanning beds. Keep infants out of the sun altogether.

Conduct a self-skin exam on a monthly basis to track any abnormal changes and be sure to schedule your annual skin cancer screenings with your dermatologist. You’ll need a professional skin exam every six months if you have a history of skin cancer or if you develop a new spot on your skin.

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