The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC). It usually appears as a small, fleshy bump or nodule. It grows very slowly and almost never spreads to other parts of the body. It usually grows on parts of the head and neck that had a lot of sun exposure. It occurs more commonly after age 40.
Exposure to ultraviolet light (both UVA and UVB) from the sun or light in tanning salons increases the risk of BCC.
Risk of getting BCC is also greater for people who have fair skin and tend to freckle or burn instead of tan. Repeated sunburns or excessive childhood sun exposures, an outdoor job, HIV, medicine that suppresses the body’s infection-fighting system, personal or family history of BCC, and radiation treatment can also increase risk.
BCC usually does not cause any symptoms; however, it can sometimes bleed or scab. It may also be itchy, but it usually doesn’t hurt.
Doctors classify the different types of BCC according to shape, appearance, and color. The most common have a raised, white or pink border and a central depression.
The health care provider will suspect BCC based on the appearance of the skin but will need a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. In a biopsy, a small piece of the skin area is removed and sent to the laboratory for study under a microscope.
Treatment usually consists of doing a biopsy and later removing the skin lesion. Sometimes, the health care provider will remove the abnormal area completely without doing a biopsy if the area is small.
BCC may in rare cases recur after treatment, especially on the ears, eyelids, scalp, and nose.
Other treatment methods are electrosurgery (using an electric needle), cryosurgery (freezing), radiation therapy, and Mohs’ surgery. Mohs’ surgery is a special method for removing BCCs on the nose or eyelid or large BCCs, or for recurrent BCC.
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