Also called Skin cancer-basal cell, Rodent ulcer
It is the most common type of skin cancer. It originates from the basal cells of the epidermis (see the skin). It occurs more often in men than women and used to be more common after the age of 40 but it is more and more being seen in younger people. Ultraviolet light exposure from sun or other source is the main predisposing factor for developing BCC and that is why the majority occur on sun exposed areas such as face, neck and ear but they can also occur in areas which are not exposed to sunlight.
Certain risk factors increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma which may include:
- People with chronic exposure to sunlight.
- People with fair skin.
- People with red, blond or light brown hair.
- People with blue or green eyes.
- People with suppressed or low immunity.
- People who have been exposed to x-ray or other radiation forms for prolonged time.
- Arsenic exposure.
There is more than one type of BCC and the appearances vary depending on the type of BCC, it may appear as:
- A bump or a pearly nodule, it may appear as a light pink, brown or flesh colored.
- An easy bleeding sore or a sore that doesn't heal.
- A well defined red and scaly patch.
- A scar like lesion.
Diagnosis is made by taking a history, examining the lesion and confirming the diagnosis by taking a skin biopsy. There are many types of biopsies and the patient is given local anesthesia before taking the biopsy to numb the skin.
Treatment depends on the type, extent and the location of BCC. Treatment includes:
- Surgical excision of the tumor after using local anesthesia followed by closing the wound with stitches.
- Curettage and electrodessication in which the cancer cells are scrapped away with a curette and the remaining is destroyed with an electrical current that generates heat.
- Mohs surgery in which the surgeon after removing each piece of skin, examines it under a microscope to check if there is any cancer cells left behind, if tumor cells are still present another piece is removed until the skin sample is free from cancer cells. Among other methods, this method provides the highest cure rate.
- Cryotherapy: this method freezes the tumor cells using liquid nitrogen leading to their destruction.
- Radiation therapy: this method may be use when cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs or for patients who can't withstand surgery.
- Topical creams such as imiguimod used for treatment of superficial BCC.
- Protecting the skin from the effect of sunlight by wearing protective clothes which include hats, clothes with long sleeves and UV protective glasses.
- Avoid exposure to sunlight in peak hours from 10am-4pm.
- Sunlight protection by using a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protective factor of at least 15 or higher. Apply the sunscreen to all areas of the body 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply it frequently.
- Examining the skin regularly for any lesion that recently appeared, changes in an existing lesion that may be suspicious include: growing, any change in appearance, bleeding, pain, itching, inflammation or a lesion that never heals completely
- Full skin examination by a qualified physician once a year.