Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, about 75 out of every 100 cases (75%) of non-melanoma skin cancers are BCCs.
How Basal Cell Carcinoma forms
Basal cell carcinoma forms in the basal cells of the skin. Basal cells are located in the lowest layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin). These cells are responsible for producing new skin cells as old ones die and are discarded. Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. It rarely metastasizes to other areas of the body, typically spreading out and damaging surrounding tissues and bone instead. However, when it does metastasize to distant sites, it is often deadly.
Why it forms
Most basal cell carcinomas are a result of long-time, repeated sun-exposure or occasional intense sun-exposure. That’s why the cancer is most common on areas of the skin regularly exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, scalp, shoulders, back and ears. Other rarer causes include exposure to radiation (especially arsenic), open sores that won’t heal, vaccinations, or chronic inflammatory skin conditions.
Who is at the greatest risk
Anyone can develop this type of cancer but it is more common in light-skinned individuals with blonde or red hair and light green or blue eyes. It most frequently occurs in elderly males, but it can also occur in younger males and females. If a family has a history of basal cell naevus syndrome, Bazex-Dupré-Christol syndrome, Rombo syndrome, Oley syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum they are at greater risk for developing basal cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma typically presents itself as a waxy or pearly white bump or nodule on the face ears or neck. These bumps may bleed or develop a crust. It can also appear as a slowly growing flat, brown or red patch that can look similar to eczema. Or, in rarer instances, it can take the form of a waxy looking scar or a thickening of skin tissue. This is a sign of infiltrative or morpheaform basal-cell cancers.
How to stay safe
Basic precautions can be taken to limit your chance of developing basal cell carcinoma, or most types of skin cancer for that matter. They may seem obvious, but they are nonetheless essential.
- Limit time spent in the sun.
- When in the sun, wear sunscreen (reapplying every few hours) and protective clothing.
- Know the warning signs of a mole or blemish.
- Check your skin regularly for new spots or moles, noticing any changes on your body.
- If you have any suspicions about any marks, lesions or bumps on your skin, be sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible to get it checked out.
While basal cell carcinoma is rarely a life-threatening cancer, it can still pose a serious risk to your skin and health if left untreated.