Basal Cell Carcinoma
Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that causes a lump, bump or lesion to form on the outside layer of your skin (epidermis). These lumps form on areas of your skin that get a lot of sun exposure. Treatment to remove cancer from your skin leads to a positive prognosis.
Overview of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of skin cancer that forms in the basal cells of your skin.
Basal cells exist in the lower part of your epidermis, which is the outside layer of your skin.
Basal cell carcinoma looks like a small, sometimes shiny bump or scaly flat patch on your skin that slowly grows over time.
What are basal cells?
Basal cells are microscopic cells in the outer layer of your skin (epidermis), which is the skin layer that you can see and touch on your body.
These cells are responsible for making new skin cells by dividing and copying themselves.
When basal cells create new cells, the older skin cells push to the surface of your epidermis, where they die and leave your body.
Types of Basal Cell Carcinoma
There are four main types of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), including:
Nodular: This is the most common type of BCC. Nodular BCC looks like a round pimple with visible blood vessels surrounding it (telangiectasias).
Superficial spreading: This type causes lesions that appear as small, shallow marks on your skin that are slightly lighter in color than the surrounding skin. These lesions form on your trunk (torso), arms and legs.
Sclerosing (morpheaform): These cancerous lesions look like scars that slowly expand over time. This type is most common on your face. This type can also take the form of a small red dot on your skin.
Pigmented: This is a rare type of BCC that causes hyperpigmentation, where an area of your skin becomes darker than the skin surrounding it.
Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma
A change to your DNA causes basal cell carcinoma.
This change usually happens after your skin has too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or tanning beds.
Your genes give your body’s DNA instructions to make new cells to replace cells that reach the end of their lifespan by copying and replicating themselves.
If a mutation affects one of your genes, your DNA won’t have the instructions to make new cells as it should.
Basal cells make new cells similar to how you’d turn on a light switch when you enter a room.
When you need to enter a room, you turn on the light.
When you leave that room, you turn the light switch off.
Basal cells make new cells when their light switch is in the on position.
If a genetic mutation targets your DNA, your basal cells aren’t able to turn off the light switch when they leave a room.
This causes your basal cells to make too many cells, which causes lumps (tumors) or lesions to form in the outer layer of your skin (epidermis).
A rare inherited condition called basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin’s syndrome) causes BCC to appear in childhood.
Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Signs of basal cell carcinoma include:
Lumps, bumps, pimples, scabs or scaly lesions on your skin.
The lump may be slightly see-through (translucent) and close to your normal skin color or white to pink, brown to black or black to blue.
The lump may appear shinier than the skin around it with tiny visible blood vessels.
The lump may grow slowly over time.
The lump may be itchy or painful.
The lump may form an ulcer, which can ooze clear fluid or bleed with contact.
Diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Skin biopsy: Your provider will remove a piece of the affected skin area (lesion) to examine it under a microscope.
Imaging tests: It’s extremely rare for basal cell carcinoma to spread throughout your body. If your healthcare provider suspects your cancer has spread elsewhere in your body, they might perform an MRI or a CT scan to detect cancer in lymph nodes or internal organs.
Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Electrodessication and curettage: Scraping off the cancerous lump with a curette and then burning with a special electric needle.
Surgery: Removing the cancerous lump or lesion with a scalpel (excision or Mohs surgery).
Cryotherapy or cryosurgery: Freezing the cancerous lump to remove it.
Chemotherapy: Using powerful medicines to kill cancerous cells in your body.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT): Applying blue light and a light-sensitive agent to your skin.
Laser therapy: Using lasers (high-energy beams) to remove cancer instead of using a scalpel.