What causes basal cell carcinoma?

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So what is Basal Cell Carcinoma exactly?

Basal cell carcinoma is a non-melanoma skin cancer that starts in the basal cells of the skin, which are located in the lower part of the epidermis.

These are the cells that produce new skin cells as old ones die off and are discarded. This type of cancer usually occurs on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. It rarely spreads to other areas of the skin outside of the original tumor site. Only in very rare cases does it metastasize to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of 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 appear as a waxy-looking scar or a thickening of skin tissue. This is a sign of infiltrative or morphea form basal-cell cancers.

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma:

· Nodular – This is the most common type that occurs on the face like a shiny, pearly nodule with a smooth surface. Sometimes blood vessels are visible across the nodule’s surface.

· Superficial -This is the most common type in younger adults and is typically found on the upper trunk and shoulders. It presents itself as an irregular looking patch with a rolled border.

· Morphoeic – This type appears as a waxy, scar-like patch with fuzzy edges. This form may invade deeper into the cutaneous nerves of the skin.

· Basisquamous – This is a combination of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It is potentially more aggressive than other varieties of cancer due to its mixed nature.

· Fibroepithelial tumor of Pinkus – This is a rare form of cancer that appears as a warty patch on the skin, usually on the trunk.

What does a normal mole look like?

But what causes Basal Cell Carcinoma?

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 in 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.

Anyone can develop this type of cancer but it is more common in light-skinned individuals with blond 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 there is a history of basal cell naevus syndrome, Bazex-Dupré-Christolsyndrome, Rombo syndrome, Oley syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum in a family, individuals are at greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.


Limiting the time spent in the sun, wearing sunscreen and protective clothing and checking the skin regularly for new spots or moles is the key to preventing and catching basal cell carcinoma early. If you have any suspicions about any marks, lesions or bumps on your skin, be sure to contact a doctor immediately for a second opinion.

While basal cell carcinoma is rarely life-threatening cancer, it can still pose a serious risk to your skin and, in some instances, invade bone and cartilage if left untreated.

Skin cancer symptoms: what to look out for

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"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom

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