Basal Cell Carcinoma

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for the majority of skin cancer cases. It develops in the basal cells, which are located in the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a painless, slow-growing, flesh-colored or pink bump on the skin, although it can also manifest as a red or brown patch, a shiny, translucent bump, or a sore that does not heal.

Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma may include:

  • A pearly or waxy bump on the skin, often with visible blood vessels.
  • A flat, flesh-colored or brown lesion that resembles a scar.
  • A red or pink, slightly raised, shiny bump.
  • A sore that continuously bleeds, crusts over, or does not heal.

Basal cell carcinoma commonly occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back.

Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma

The primary cause of basal cell carcinoma is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds. Other risk factors for developing BCC include:

  • Fair skin, light hair, and light-colored eyes.
  • History of frequent or severe sunburns.
  • Advanced age, as basal cell carcinoma is more common in older individuals.
  • Personal or family history of skin cancer.
  • Weakened immune system, as seen in individuals with conditions such as HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive medications.

Treatment for Basal Cell Carcinoma

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma aims to remove the cancerous growth while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgical Excision: Surgical removal of the tumor and a surrounding margin of healthy skin.
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery: A specialized surgical technique that removes thin layers of tissue one at a time and examines them under a microscope until no cancer cells are detected.
  • Electrodessication and Curettage (ED&C): Scraping away the tumor followed by cauterization (burning) of the base to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
  • Cryotherapy: Freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen to destroy abnormal cells.
  • Topical Medications: Prescription creams or gels containing ingredients such as imiquimod or fluorouracil (5-FU) may be used for superficial basal cell carcinomas.

In some cases, radiation therapy or targeted therapy may be recommended for individuals who are not candidates for surgery or have advanced or recurrent basal cell carcinoma.

It’s important for individuals with basal cell carcinoma to undergo regular skin examinations and sun protection measures to prevent recurrence and reduce the risk of developing additional skin cancers.

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