Basal Cell Carcinoma
(Skin cancer-Basal Cell)
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This cancer usually grows slowly and rarely spreads to other tissues in the body.
Basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal but it can cause damage to the nearby tissue. If there is risk of damage, the cancer may need treatment or removal.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The growths invade and take over nearby tissue. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Areas of skin that are damaged have higher risk of cancer. Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is most likely to develop skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or inflammatory skin diseases.
Factors that increase your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma include:
Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The doctor will look at the skin growth. A sample of the growth will be taken and examined for cancer cells. This examine will help determine the stage and type of the cancer. Your doctor will use this information to guide treatment and make a prognosis.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
For people who are not able to have surgery, other treatment options include:
To reduce your chances of getting basal cell carcinoma, take these steps:
American Academy of Dermatology
The Skin Cancer Foundation
Canadian Dermatology Association
Canadian Cancer Society
Saraiya M, et al. Preventing skin cancer.
MMWR. 2003 Oct 17;52(RR15):1-12. Available at:
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed March 28, 2013.
Basal cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
Wong C, Strange R, et al. Basal cell carcinoma. BMJ. 2003;327:794-798.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD