Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for 80% of all diagnosed skin cancer cases. Basal cell carcinoma is caused by ultraviolet light from outdoor exposure or tanning beds. Because it develops only after many years of exposure and therefore trying to decrease its frequency requires getting patients to minimize sun exposure, get out of tanning beds and use sunscreens regularly.

Basal cell carcinoma appears most often on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, scalp, ears, hands and neck. Though rare, basal cell carcinoma can occur on skin that has been protected from the sun.

Basal cell can take several forms:

  • Small pearly bump that may bleed, develop a crust or form a depression in the center.
  • A flat or slightly raised broad growth that usually does not bleed but grows slowly over several years.
  • More uncommonly a white firm subtle scar-like growth that often times has significant spread under the skin.

Basal cell carcinoma very rarely spreads internally. There are several different treatments that are at the physician’s discretion for treating this type of cancer. Some basal cells grow only on the surface and can be removed with surface treatments. Others, especially on the face have a tendency to move deeper into the underlying tissues and require excision. Sometimes this can be done with a simple excision where the cancer is cut out and sewn closed.

Often times on the face there can be more cancer present than is visible to the eye. Mohs micrographic surgery ensures the entire cancer is removed before the skin is repaired with stitches.

There are several different treatments that are at the physician’s discretion for treating this type of cancer. Some basal cells grow only on the surface and can be removed with surface treatments. Others, especially on the face have a tendency to move deeper into the underlying tissues and require excision. Sometimes this can be done with a simple excision where the cancer is cut out and sewn closed.

Often times on the face because of the uncertain direction of the roots, the basal cell carcinoma is removed with the Mohs surgical technique to ensure complete removal prior to placing the sutures.

Once an individual has had a basal cell carcinoma, they are at significant risk for additional cancers. Practicing safe sun exposure with sunscreens, clothing, avoiding sun when it is most intense, etc., all become important.

An annual dermatologic exam (at a minimum) is recommended for patients who have had a skin cancer.

Examples of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma