What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Please note.  When I was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, I was very keen to find out as much as I could about its causes, what exactly it is, and what treatments were available.  Below are the results of my own research taken from a variety of educational sources, but for a definitive explanation of BCC you should talk to your health care provider.

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma ?

Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and the most common type of cancer overall.  It is very rarely fatal, almost never spreads to other parts of the body and if detected early enough, relatively simpe to treat.

One out of every three new reported cancers is a skin cancer, and the vast majority are Basal Cell Carcinoma.
In the USA the number of people with Basal Cell Carcinoma is growing (possibly because of the depletion of the ozone layer and increase of Ultra Violet light exposure) each year there are about one million new cases, about eight hundred thousand cases in the European Union, and about one hundred and fifteen thousand cases each year in Brazil (where I live)

Basal Cell Carcinoma is most common in white males over forty five years old, in fact it is almost twice as common in men than women.

There are three types of Skin Cancers:
Basal Cell Carcinoma  - 80% (most common)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma - 16%
Melanoma - 4% (least common, and most serious)

The most common types of Basal Cell Carcinomas are:
Nodular BCCs - most common type
Sclerosing BCCs  (morpheaform)
Superficial BCCs

Where can Basal Cell Carcinoma develop?

Basal Cell Carcinoma usual occurs on sun exposed parts of the body especially the neck and head, although it can occur on any part of the body.
basal cell carcinoma pictures diagram


What are the signs & symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma ?

Basal Cell Carcinoma can look like eczema, psoriasis, a wound or a small bump that is translucent, pearly, pink, red or white. It is often difficult to tell what it is just by looking, and for this reason it is essential that you should seek a specialist medical opinion as soon as you notice any change in any area of skin.

The tip of the iceberg

Basal Cell Carcinoma has 'roots' that extend beyond the visible part of the tumor, just like the roots of a tree, so when you see a Basal Cell Carcinoma  you are really seeing the “tip of the iceberg”.  These 'roots' spread along the surface of the skin and downwards into the skin and can spread well beyond the visible tumor on the surface of the skin.

The following are just some signs that you should seek a medical opinion:
A sore that looks like an abrasion which bleeds a little, scabs over, then bleeds again and continues in a cycle that never heals.
Below is an example of this (me infact) The small dark spot at the lower left of the Basal Cell Carcinoma is dried blood where it had been bleeding.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Pictures 2

A growth or small lump that is:

•Pearly or waxy
•White or light pink
•Flesh-colored or brown
Sometimes the skin might be only a bit raised or it might be even flat. You might have:

•Oozing or crusty spots on a sore
•What looks like a scar without having injured the area
•Irregular blood vessels in or around the area
•A sore with a sunken area in the middle
These are some, but not all, signs of  Basal Cell Carcinoma. If you have any doubts, seek professional medical advice, as soon as possible.

 What actually is Basal Cell Carcinoma ?

Your skin is formed in layers, and the Basal cells are cells that line the deepest layer of the epidermis, the fifth layer. (The red layer in the diagram below)
Basal Cell Carcinoma Pictures 3

Most basal cell carcinomas are thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. The UV damages the skin’s cellular DNA and produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer.  Apart from the sun another source of UV radiation are sunbeds!  A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.  So if you must stay out in the sun, use sun protection cream and a hat, and if you absolutely must have a tan, don't use a sunbed! Get a fake spray on tan, it might be safer.
Did you know?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization.