BASAL CELL CARCINOMA
This patient information and photographs on Basal Cell Carcinoma is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Basal cell cancer is a skin cancer. This is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. It accounts for about 80% of skin cancers treated in the U.S. Over 500,000 new basal cell cancers are diagnosed each year. This kind of skin cancer is most commonly seen on the face and other sun exposed areas of the body. It can not transform into other types of skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma.
What causes it? The exact cause of skin cancer is unknown. I would like to emphasize that ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is the biggest risk factor. Since sun damage to the skin cells is cumulative over a lifetime, even people who don't get out in the sun much now can be at risk for basal cell cancer. The people at highest risk are those who have fair skin and light colored eyes, and those that have a family history of skin cancers.
Most dermatologists believe that regular use of sunscreen decreases risk for the development of basal cell skin cancer. My personal recommendation is a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher Sunscreen Info./Ordering. For more skin care in the sun recommendations click here sun skin care.
Is it dangerous? Basal cell cancers can be very dangerous if not treated. This cancer usually does not spread to other organs, but if neglected will continue to eat away and grow beneath the skin. Like the tip of an iceberg, a small cancer may have a lot more beneath the surface. Neglected cases can result in severe disfigurement, and in very rare cases if the cancer has grown large enough can cause death. Click here for what can happen if a Basal Cell cancer is left untreated. This does not happen with early treatment and cure.
Can it be cured? The cure rate is very good, better than 90% with the first treatment. There are several ways to treat Basal cell carcinoma and I will discuss with you which way I feel is the best way to proceed (see also skin cancer treatments and Mohs Surgery).
Will it spread? Without treatment the cancer will continue to grow and spread locally.
Will it grow back? A small number may reoccur and will need further treatment. Periodic follow up is needed in order to check for any sign of reoccurrence or development of new cancer.
Will I get more? People that have had one skin cancer are at risk to get more. You should become aware of the signs and symptoms of skin cancer and point out to me any suspicious new growths that may occur.
Is it contagious? It is not contagious and you cannot "catch it" from anyone