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Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, presenting most commonly as a red or pink pimple-like bump or flat patch. It may also present as a sore that will not heal, a growth that bleeds easily, or as a scar-like growth. BCC is caused by a combination of cumulative sun exposure and intense, intermittent sun exposure.

BCC is an uncontrolled growth of the basal or deep layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). BCC almost never metastasizes (spreads distantly from its origin), but commonly involves an area bigger than what is visible with the naked eye. Neglected, it grows and destroys the tissue it invades.

Lesions are suspected clinically but biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis and identify the growth pattern. Some BCCs grow in a superficial pattern, like a sheet of ice, while others can grow more like an invasive root system. The treatment recommended depends upon the size, location, and growth pattern.

Treatment of BCC may include simple curettage (or scraping) for superficial lesions in areas that are not cosmetically sensitive, excisional surgery, or Mohs surgery for large lesions, aggressive growth patterns, or lesions in areas that are cosmetically or functionally important. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy are usually reserved for very large, unresectable lesions, or for patients that are not candidates for surgery. Topical creams are also sometimes for superficial BCCs on the trunk or extremities.

With early detection and appropriate treatment, BCCs are usually curable cancers.