Madeline Vann, MPH
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This cancer usually grows slowly and rarely spreads to other tissues in the body.
Basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal but it can cause damage to the nearby tissue. If there is risk of damage, the cancer may need treatment or removal.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Areas of skin that are damaged have a higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is most likely to develop skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or inflammatory skin diseases.
Factors that increase your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma include:
Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The skin growth will be examined. A sample of the growth will be taken and examined for cancer cells. This will help determine the stage and type of the cancer.
The information will be used to guide treatment and make a prognosis.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
For people who are not able to have surgery, other treatment options include:
To reduce your chances of getting basal cell carcinoma, take these steps:
American Academy of Dermatology
The Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Alberta Provincial Cutaneous Tumour Team. Prevention of skin cancer. Edmonton (Alberta): CancerControl Alberta; 2013 Feb. 27 p. (Clinical practice guideline; no. CU-014). Available at: http://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=48130#Section420. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Basal cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/basal-cell-carcinoma. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 18, 2014. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Saraiya M, et al. Preventing skin cancer.
MMWR. 2003 Oct 17;52(RR15):1-12.
Updated October 2, 2003. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Wong C, Strange R, et al. Basal cell carcinoma.
Last reviewed February 2015 by
Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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