Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States.
Basal cell carcinoma is believed to be caused principally by the sun and occurs more commonly in fair-skinned individuals who sunburn easily. They also occur in patients who have been exposed to radiation or who take immunosuppressive drugs (for organ transplants or autoimmune diseases). BCC usually presents as a “pearly” bump or as a non-healing growth in the skin. They are typically found in a chronically sun-exposed location of the body such as the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, legs, and arms.
The clinical diagnosis of Basal cell carcinoma is confirmed with a skin biopsy performed in the office. These tumors rarely metastasize and are usually not life-threatening, unless they grow into bone, cartilage, or nerves. Treatment for the vast majority of cases is surgical. Simple excision is the most common removal and does require stitches. At times, MOHS surgery is performed: if the BCC is recurrent, a particularly aggressive cell type, or in the H zone of the face (high-risk area for recurrence, usually includes the nose, eyes, or mouth). MOHS surgery, offered at Advanced Dermatology, with MOHS surgeon, Dr. Meghan Morrow, is a treatment where Dr. Morrow evaluates the frozen section of the surgery to determine best margins and ensure complete removal. For superficial BCC, we can also consider prescription creams, electrosurgery, and photodynamic therapy.
Surgery is curative. There is a 1-5% recurrence rate after surgery, but the individual who develops the skin cancer is at risk for getting a completely new one within 5 years, as well as being more susceptible to getting squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. For prevention the following steps are helpful for prevention: start using sunscreen on a daily basis and on every exposed area of the body (some types of UV light goes through window glass so you need to wear sunscreen even in the winter- use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and has >5% zinc oxide.