Basal Cell Carcinoma


A type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer found in North America. It frequently affects people with fair-skin and Hispanics, although it is fairly uncommon in darkly pigmented people. People who work outdoors, especially those who work in sunny climates, are at greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

Fortunately basal cell carcinoma is considered to be a localized tumor. While it does grow, gradually invading and destroying surrounding tissue, it only rarely spreads (metastasize) to other areas of the body.

It is believed that the ultraviolet radiation ( UV ) in sunlight is the primary cause of basal cell carcinoma. Ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by a pigment in the skin called melanin. Melanin is found to a much lesser degree in fair skinned people than in people with dark complexions, which explains why certain peoples are more susceptible to UV damage.

Basal cell carcinoma can occur anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the face. In fact, over 90% of them are found on the face. The tumors are very commonly found around the eye or the nose. They begin as small relatively flat "lumps" which over time may develop depressions in their centers with raised edges. In addition, they may continually scab or intermittently bleed.

The diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma is made via microscopic examination of cells removed from the tumor. Since these tumors may develop very slowly, people may not notice them until they are questioned about them at routine health care visits such as eye examinations.

While there are various ways to treat basal cell carcinomas, surgical removal is considered to offer the best opportunity for total removal and a complete cure. If not completely removed these tumors can recur.

Individuals with fair skin should avoid excessive unprotected exposure to strong sunlight. When outdoors under such conditions it is wise to wear protective hats with adequate brims to protect the face and neck. Over-the-counter sunscreens are strongly recommended as well.


ice EffectivDate: April 14, 2007