Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common form of skin cancer. Basal cells reside in the deepest layer of the epidermis, along with hair follicles and sweat ducts. When a person is overexposed to UVB radiation, it damages the body’s natural repair system, which causes basal cell carcinomas to grow. These tend to be slow-growing tumors and rarely metastasize (spread).

Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, appearing as pearly or waxy bumps or flat scar-like lesions. Basal cell skin cancers are highly treatable and only spread to adjacent regions. Still, it is essential to remove them since they are invasive abnormal growths that may be spreading beneath the skin.

  • Raised pink or pearly white bump with a pearly edge and small, visible blood vessels
  • Pigmented bumps that look like moles with a pearly edge
  • A sore that continuously heals and re-opens
  • Flat scaly scar with a waxy appearance and blurred edges

Despite the different appearances of the cancer, they all tend to bleed with little or no cause. Eighty-five percent of basal cell carcinomas occur on the face and neck since these are areas that are most exposed to the sun.

Risk factors for basal cell carcinoma include having fair skin, sun exposure, age (most skin cancers occur after age 50), exposure to ultraviolet radiation (as in tanning beds) and therapeutic radiation given to treat an unrelated health issue.

Diagnosing basal cell carcinoma requires a biopsy — either excisional, where the entire tumor is removed along with some of the surrounding tissue, or incisional, where only a part of the tumor is removed (used primarily for large lesions).