Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. Basal Cell Carcinoma begins in the basal cells of the skin- a type of cell within the skin that produces new skin cells as old ones die off.
Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a waxy reddish bump, though it can take other forms and can resemble non-cancerous conditions such as posiriasis and eczema. Basal cell carcinoma occurs most often on areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as your face and neck.
Most basal cell carcinomas are thought to be caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen may help protect against basal cell carcinoma.
BCC’s are easily treated in their early stages. The larger the tumour has grown however, the more extensive the treatment needed and, if left untreated for too long, they can cause major disfigurement.
Signs and Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas usually develop on sun-exposed parts of your body, especially your head and neck. A much smaller number occur on the trunk and legs. Yet basal cell carcinomas can also occur on parts of your body that are rarely exposed to sunlight.
Although a general warning sign of skin cancer is a sore that won’t heal or that repeatedly bleeds and scabs over, basal cell cancer may also appear as:
- An open sore that bleeds, crusts and remains open to heal then bleeds again every few weeks
- A pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on your face, ears or neck. The bump may bleed and develop a crust. In darker skinned people, this type of cancer may be brown or black.
- A flat, scaly, brown, red or flesh-coloured patch on your back or chest. Over time, these patches can grow quite large.
- More rarely, a white, waxy scar. This type of basal cell carcinoma is easy to overlook, but it may be a sign of a particularly invasive and disfiguring cancer called morphoeic basal cell carcinoma.
- Fair Skin. Anyone, regardless of skin colour, can get basal cell carcinoma of the skin. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blonde or red hair and light coloured eyes and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re much more likely to develop skin cancer than a person with darker skin.
- Excessive sun exposure. Being exposed to UV light from the sun increases your risk of basal cell carcinoma of the skin. Spending lots of time in the sun – particularly if you don’t cover your skin with clothing or sunblock – increases your risk of developing any form of skin cancer.
- Genetics. The tendency to develop BCC can also be inherited. Older age groups have previously been associated with the development of BCCs. While it has notably been older people who have been affected by this disease, Dermatologists report that new cases of skin cancer diagnosis are on the rise within young people in their 20’s and 30’s.
- Occupations that require workers to undertake long hours outdoors and people who spend a large amount of leisure time in the sun are also considered more susceptible.
- A personal history of skin cancer. If you’ve had a basal cell carcinoma before, you’re more likely to develop a second skin cancer.
Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma
At Belfast Skin Clinic our team of consultant Dermatologists assess patients on an individual basis and only upon full assessment will an appropriate treatment pathway be advised.
There are a number of treatment options available for removal of BCC, depending on the site, size and types. These include:
- Topical creams
- Photodynamic therapy
- Excision by Moh’s surgery – preferred for facial BCC’s. The Belfast Skin Clinic is the only private facility which offers this specialised surgery in Northern Ireland.
The most suitable treatment will be discussed by your consultant.