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Other Names:
Rodent ulcer, Basal Cell Skin Cancer, BCC
Basal Cell Carcinoma

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Definition

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and affects approximately 800,000 Americans each year.

Dark-skinned individuals are far less likely than fair-skinned to develop skin cancer. However, more than two-thirds of the skin cancers in fair skinned people are squamous cell carcinomas taht usually arise at the sites of pre-existing inflammatory skin conditions or burn injuries.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) arises in the basal cells of the skin. Basal cells are the bottom layer of the epidermis. Epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin.

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Causes

The most common cause of basal cell carcinoma is long term exposure to sunlight of parts of the body like the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. In rare cases, tumors may develop on non-exposed areas. Contact with arsenic, exposure to radiation and complications of burns, scars, vaccinations, or even tattoos are important contributing factors.

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Risk Factors

  • Anyone with a history of frequent sun exposure can develop basal cell carcinoma.
  • People who have fair skin, light hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes are at highest risk.
  • Those people who work long hours outdoors or who spend extensive leisure time in the sun.

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Leision of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma sometimes resembles non-cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Below is a list of warning signs of basal cell carcinoma. It is vital to examine your skin regularly particularly if you engage in activities or occupations that expose you to the sun for prolonged periods of time. Be sure to examine the scalp, backs of ears, neck, and other hard-to-see areas by using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. If you observe any of the warning signs or some other change in your skin, consult your physician immediately.

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The Early/Warning Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma

  1. A scar-like white, yellow or waxy area, which often has poorly defined borders. The skin may appear shiny and taut. Although a less frequently occurring sign, it can indicate the presence of an aggressive tumor.
  2. A reddish patch or a patch showing skin irritation. This irritated area of skin frequently occurs on the chest, shoulders, arms, or legs. The patch may crust, itch or hurt or it may persist with no noticeable discomfort.
  3. A shiny nodule, that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red, or white. The nodule can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and can be confused with a mole.
  4. An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks or a persistent, non-healing sore.
  5. A pink growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.

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Treatment

Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma depends on the size, depth and location of the cancer.

  • The carcinoma is removed using one of these procedures:
  • Scraping
  • Cauterization or burning.
  • Surgical removal, including microscopic shaving (Mohs' surgery)
  • Cryosurgery or freezing.
  • Radiation therapy.

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Prognosis

Early treatment of this cancer may result in a cure rate of more than 95%. However, the cancer may appear on new sites so diligent monitoring and regular examination by your physician is necessary.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma