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What is basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of cancer in the United States. BCC is a cancer of the skin caused by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. BCC begins in the deepest layer of the epidermis of the skin: the basal layer. BCC typically occurs in areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the head, face, and neck, but it can occur in any area of the body.
BCC is a slow-growing cancer that rarely metastasizes. Even so, BCC can be very damaging. If left untreated, BCC will continue to grow and will invade and destroy the surrounding skin and tissues beneath the skin.
The major risk factor for BCC is UV light exposure, whether from the sun or tanning beds. Although anyone can develop BCC, people with certain physical characteristics (such as light or freckled skin, light eyes or hair, or difficulty getting a tan) are at increased risk. Other risk factors include taking immunosuppressant medications, overexposure to X-rays, having a close relative who had a BCC growth, or previously having had a BCC growth.
What does BCC look like?
Generally, a BCC growth looks like a pink or pearly white lesion or sore. BCC lesions commonly bleed easily, crust over, and heal poorly. There may be tiny blood vessels on the lesion (called ‘telangiectasias’), or the lesion may have a center that appears depressed (like a pie that deflated in the middle).
Some BCC subtypes have special characteristics. For example, BCC can also appear as any of the following:
The one and the only way to diagnose any type of skin cancer is to biopsy the skin. Skin biopsy is a simple procedure in which part of the lesion is removed and examined under a microscope to detect any cancerous cells.
Treatment for BCC
The method of treatment for BCC depends on many factors, including the subtype and location of the BCC growth. Methods of treatment include the following:
Dr. Rokhsar is a trained Mohs and cosmetic surgeon. As a fellowship-trained dermatologist surgeon, he specializes in Mohs Micrographic surgery which is the most precise way to remove skin cancer. Fellowship-trained doctors gain a significant amount of intensive training after they complete their bachelor’s degree, medical school requirements, residential training, and dermatology training. The additional training results in a level of expertise and knowledge beyond most dermatologists.