Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma
If you’ve been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), you are not alone. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. Each year, millions of cases of BCC are diagnosed in the United States. Nearly all are cured with treatment.
BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes. You may see a:
- Dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels
- Shiny, pinkish patch
- Sore that heals and then returns, often more than once
- Brown or black growth
- White or yellow waxy growth that looks like a scar
Most BCCs develop on skin that has been repeatedly exposed to the sun, such as the scalp, neck, and hands. BCC is especially common on the face, often forming on the nose, cheeks, and forehead. Although BCC rarely spreads, it can develop anywhere on the body, and treatment is important because they can grow wide and deep, destroying skin tissue and sometimes bone.
People of all skin colors can get BCC, although it is much more common in light-skinned people. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage your skin. Your everyday activities expose you to UV rays, such as going outdoors during the day without sun protection or when you drive your car or sit near your office window.
In addition, if you use indoor tanning beds, your skin is also exposed to dangerous UV radiation.
Your risk of developing skin cancer increases as this damage accumulates.
There are some people though who have a higher risk of getting BCC. For example, the risk increases with age. The older you are, the longer you have been exposed to the sun’s UV rays. People also may have a higher risk of developing BCC when they have:
- Pale, light-colored or freckled skin
- Blond or red hair
- Blue, green, or gray eyes
- A family history of skin cancer
- A weakened immune system or are taking medicine that suppresses the immune system
- Used tanning beds or other indoor tanning devices
To diagnose BCC, a dermatologist performs a skin biopsy. This is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of skin cancer, including BCC. Your dermatologist can perform a biopsy using local anesthesia during an office visit.
To perform a biopsy, your dermatologist will remove the entire growth (or a part of it) that might be a BCC. Your dermatologist may send this to a laboratory or look at it under a microscope. The findings will be communicated in a biopsy report.
If the diagnosis is BCC, your dermatologist will consider many factors to determine the best treatment for you, including where the BCC appears on your body, the size and features of the BCC, and your overall health.
Eczema cannot be cured, but needs to be managed chronically. Occasionally, changes to a patient’s skin care routine are all that is needed to maintain clear skin. Flares and poorly controlled eczema can be treated with medicated ointments or creams. Antibiotics may necessary if there is concern for infection. Similarly, bleach baths or vinegar water soaks may be used to prevent infections.
As fragrances, dyes, and other chemicals can exacerbate eczema, it is important to use fragrance free and sensitive skin self-care and laundry products. Avoid alcohol based products, including aerosol sprays and waterless hand sanitizers, as alcohol is very drying for the skin. Antihistamines taken routinely can decrease the itch associated with eczema and are particularly helpful in patients with associated hay fever and seasonal allergies.
Because eczema cannot be cured, a patient will always have the tendency for flares of the skin. And while hereditary eczema cannot be prevented, the frequency and severity of the flares can be managed with good skin care and avoidance of irritants.
If I have BCC, am I at greater risk of developing other skin cancers?
Yes. Studies show that people who have one skin cancer are at greater risk of developing another skin cancer. Perform regular skin self-examinations, and protect your skin every day. Be sure to keep all appointments with your dermatologist, and make an immediate appointment of you notice anything changing, itching, or bleeding on your skin.
Can anyone get BCC?
Yes. People of all skin colors can get BCC, although it is much more common in light-skinned people.
Are tanning beds ever safe?
No. Never use a tanning bed. UV light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product. Remember that even when using one of these products, you need to use sunscreen.