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Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common type of skin cancer is basal-cell carcinoma (BCC), also called basal-cell cancer. These cancers are thought to come from cells located in the lower part of the epidermal layer of our skin. It is often painless, grows slowly and unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. When treated properly, the cure rate is excellent.


What to look for

It has been estimated that 85% of BCC occurs on areas exposed to sunlight such as the face, head and neck. Some describe the change in skin as a pimple, growth, lesion, bump or sore that does not heal. Size can vary from very small like the size of a sesame seed to something much larger.  You may notice:

  • A pearly, white, pink or tan bump that has very small blood vessels through it
  • A brown, black or blue growth with dark spots and raised edges
  • A scaly, red flat patch with irregular, raised edges
  • A scar like growth that appears white or yellow and oily/waxy
  • Bleeding with no known cause


Cause and Risks

Causes of BCC are primarily exposure to UV light (sun, tanning beds), age and genetic factors. Some of the genetic factors include: family history of skin cancer, multiple moles, light eyes and fair skin tone.



A diagnosis of basal-cell carcinoma is made by a medical professional. The MD will examine your skin and review your medical history. A biopsy (small sample) of the growth will be obtained and analyzed in the lab. The type of biopsy will be determined by the MD.



Many treatments are available for BCC and will depend on the size, type and location

  • Mohs surgery: 100% margin evaluation, time intensive for higher risk cancers in high risk locations
  • Standard Excision: removal of the growth/lesion with predetermined margins
  • Curattage and electrodesiccation: a curette is used to remove cancerous tissue and an electric needle is used to control bleeding
  • Cryotherapy: liquid nitrogen is used to “freeze” the lesion
  • Topical Creams: Imiquimod, 5-Fluorouracil, Tazarotene
  • Radiotherapy: daily treatment for 4-6 weeks for patients who can’t have surgery
  • Other treatments are also available and used at the discretion of your primary physician


People who have had BCC treated correctly are at very low risk for reoccurrence of the original cancer. Over the next 5 years, it is a “coin–flip” if these patients will get another BCC, unrelated to the first one. Simple Self-Skin exams at least once a month and a yearly exam by a dermatologist are highly recommended.