Basal Cell Carcinoma
What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skins cancer as well as the most frequently occurring of all types of cancer. It is a result of uncontrolled growth of basal cells. The process of creating new skin cells is controlled by the DNA of basal cells. Mutations in this DNA can cause the overgrowth of cells associated with basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinomas tends to grow slowly and as such, most are curable and cause minimal damage when discovered and treated early. Most basal cell carcinomas are thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen may help protect against basal cell carcinoma.
What does Basal Cell Carcinoma look like?
Basal cell carcinomas can vary widely in appearance. They can present as a slightly transparent bump, red patches, or growths with elevated, rolled edges, or contain a central indentation. It is common for lesions to occur in areas prone to frequent sun exposure, particularly the head, face, and neck although they can occur in areas with little to no sun exposure. About half of basal cell carcinomas in individuals with dark complections are pigmented.
Is Basal Cell Carcinoma dangerous?
As previously mentioned, basal cell carcinoma tends to be slow growing in nature. Typically, basal cell carcinomas do not tend to spread beyond the original tumor site. Untreated basal cell carcinomas can become quite large, growing wide and deep into the skin resulting in destruction of skin, tissue, and bone. The longer treatment is delayed, the more likely the condition will recur.
What are risk factors for Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Chronic Sun Exposure:
Spending a lot of time in the sun or in commercial tanning beds can increase your risk of basal cell carcinoma. If you live in sunny locations or areas of high altitude the risk is greater. Severe sunburns can increase your risk of basal cell carcinomas. Individuals who freckle or burn easily tend to have a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinomas. Those with light skin, red or blond hair, or light colored eyes have increased risk.
Basal cell carcinomas can take decades to develop and the majority of this type of cancer develops in older adults. It's important to note, however, that basal cell carcinomas can affect younger people and is becoming more common in individuals in their 20s and 30s
History of Skin Cancer:
Having had basal cell carcinoma one or more times greatly increases your chances of developing it again. If your family has a risk of skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma yourself.
How can I prevent basal cell carcinoma?
Prevention of basal cell carcinoma centers around protecting the skin from UV exposure. There are simple but effective measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
Avoid mid day sun
UV exposure is highest during the mid day hours. Avoiding direct sunlight between the hours of 10am and 4pm reduces exposure to the sun's strongest rays, particularly in the summertime. Schedule activities for earlier or later in the day.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF-30 or greater year round, even on cloudy days. Applying sunscreen generously and reapplying every two hours increases effectiveness.
Wear Protective Clothing
Keeping your skin covered is the most effective means of protection. Dark, tightly woven clothing offers the most protection against the suns rays and hats should have a wide brim to protect the face and neck.
How do you treat basal cell carcinoma?
Treatment of basal cell carcinoma typically requires surgical removal of the suspicious lesion. Generally the removed tissue will be submitted to a pathology lab for identification of the type of cancer and to confirm adequate removal of all portions of the lesion. When caught early, these procedures can be quick and easy, with little risk of complications.
Do you have suspicious looking changes to your skin?
Don't delay having changes of the condition of your skin evaluated! Whether young or old, skin cancers are a risk we all face, and when caught early, treatments are much less invasive and much more effective. Reach out to us below so that we can schedule you with our Dermatology team to ensure your skin stays healthy!
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