Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma begins in the basal cells — 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 bump, though it can take other forms. 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 long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen may help protect against 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:
- 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 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 morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.