Basal Cell Carcinoma | Basal Cell Cancer

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (or cancer) is by far the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cell cancer develops in the basal cell layer (hence the name) and can be very destructive and disfiguring. Basal cell cancer occurs mainly on hair-bearing and sun exposed skin areas. Approximately 800,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. The lifetime risk of developing a basal cell cancer is estimated to be 28% to 33%.

The typical appearance of a basal cell carcinoma is a pinkish, somewhat pearly, raised area, sometimes with a central ulcer or scab. Fine blood vessels (called telangiectasias) can be seen with magnification.

If caught early, there is a better than a 95% cure rate. This type of skin cancer is more common on Caucasians with fair complexions and typically present as a new or changing fleshy bump or firm bump, usually on the sun-exposed areas of the skin. Nearly 75% of all basal cell carcinomas occur on the face.

The vast majority of basal cell carcinomas occur on the face and can lead to significant cosmetic deformity if not appropriately treated and expertly reconstructed.

An estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Approximately one million new skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. Eighty percent of these skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, 16% are squamous cell carcinoma and 4% are melanoma.

If left untreated, basal cell carcinomas may grow through the skin and other tissues causing considerable destruction as well cosmetic deformity. It is extremely rare however for basal cell cancer to spread to distant body parts.

Significant risk factors for basal cell are fair skin tone and over exposure to the sun. Some people with a history of x-ray or radiation therapy (used in the past for treating acne), thermal burns or exposure to arsenic compounds are also predisposed to developing basal cell tumors.

There is an increased risk of basal cell cancer in whites, especially those with blue eyes, a fair complexion, and those who sunburn easily, suntan poorly, freckle with sun exposure, have red, blond, or light-brown hair. Basal cell cancer is uncommon in Africans, Asians, and Hispanics. The incidence of basal cell cancer is increasing rapidly. 75% of basal cell cancers occur on areas of the body that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as head, neck, and back of the hands. Basal cell cancer is also most commonly found on the nose. The rising incidence rates of basal cell cancer is probably due to a combination of increased sun exposure or exposure to ultraviolet light, increased outdoor activities, changes in clothing style, increased longevity, and ozone depletion. The incidence of basal cell cancer is also elevated in individuals with a high cumulative exposure to UV light, such as outdoor workers, or those with more frequent outdoor activities such as golf, sailing, climbing, or skiing. Once an individual develops a basal cell cancer, there is a greater than 30% chance that a new skin cancer will appear within 5 years.

There are several factors known to be associated with basal cell carcinoma. These include:

  • The individual's skin type. People with fair skin, red hair and freckles are at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
  • Accumulated exposure to the sun during one's lifetime has been proven to be responsible since the majority of basal cell carcinomas appear on sun exposed areas such as the face, scalp, ears, and upper parts of chest and back.
  • Continuous exposure to chemical cancer-causing agents such as tars, oils, and arsenic, or X-rays and/or radiotherapy may act as a cofactor for developing basal cell carcinoma.
  • Chronically injured skin, burn scars, or skin areas that are constantly inflamed or irritated can also be at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
  • Patients who have to undergo immunosuppressive treatment due to an organ transplantation or people with an inherent immune defect such as AIDS also have an increased potential of developing basal cell carcinoma.
  • There are also some rare genetically determined disorders that increase the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. These include Xeroderma pigmentosa and Basal cell nevus syndrome.

What does basal cell cancer look like?

Basal cell carcinoma can have a number of different appearances. A basal cell cancer can look like a regular pimple or a small translucent (seemingly water-filled) bump with little blood vessels shining through.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell cancer can sometimes look like a red flat but slightly raised area or as a scaly red to white-brownish patch. Sometimes basal cell carcinoma may be of brown to black color looking similar to a mole. Basal cell carcinoma may at times itch, be sensitive to touch or even scab and bleed. What all the different types of basal cell cancer have in common is that they usually appear on the face. The can however, also occur on the scalp, the ears, and the upper part of the chest and back.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

Usually basal cell carcinoma progresses slowly but gradually. But if left untreated it may grow very destructive entering deeper tissue and causing major disfigurement.

Treatment Options

The treatment of choice for basal cell carcinoma is surgical removal, with or without the Mohs technique. The full range of treatment options for basal cell carcinoma include the following:

What should i do if i think i have a basal cell cancer?

There are several effective treatment options available for basal cell carcinoma. The first and most important step is to perform a biopsy (sampling of the suspected growth) and have a pathologist confirm the diagnosis. This is a simple and quick procedure that is typically performed by the primary care provider, the dermatologist, or the plastic surgeon.

The procedure involves injection a small amount of numbing medication in the skin and using a scalpel to shave off a portion of the tumor. The biopsy site is typically covered with Vaseline or antibiotic ointment and a band-aid. Typically 4-5 days are needed to process and examine the removed tissue and to make a diagnosis.

Basal cell carcinoma can be easily diagnosed with a simple shave biopsy procedure.

If you have a biopsy-proven basal cell carcinoma and would like to have Dr. Naficy assist you in removal of the skin cancer and reconstruction of your face, you may contact us through our website. A member of our nursing staff will contact you at a convenient time and perform a telephone interview.

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