Basal Cell and Squamous

Basal Cell and Squamous

A carcinoma is a cancer that occurs in the skin or the lining of internal organs. Basal cell carcinoma (BSC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common forms of skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. They are often referred together as nonMelanomas.

Basal Cell and Squamous

More than 2 million Americans are treated for nonMelanomas every year; far more than for all other types of cancer combined. However, nonMelanomas account for less than .1% of cancer deaths in the United States.

Substantial exposure to ultraviolet radiation (for example, being in sunlight without proper sunscreen, or using a tanning bed) and having a light complexion can increase a person’s risk for skin cancer. Individual immune systems may also play a role in the development of skin cancer; immunosuppressive drugs, such as those given to organ transplant recipients, or exposure to arsenic can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Recent studies have shown a possible association between SCC and infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Basal cell carcinoma has a variety of distinctive appearances, according to the American Academy or Dermatology. It may appear as a dome-shaped, slow-growing skin growth that is pink, fleshy, brown, black, or has flecks of color, has visible blood vessels, may flatten in the center, ooze, crust over, or bleed easily. Skin growths may be scaly, pink, or red, or waxy feeling, hard, or scar-like in appearance.

Squamous cell carcinomas may appear as lumps with a rough, scaly, or crusty surface. Or, they may look like flat, reddish patches in the skin, in such areas as the face, ear, neck, lips, or hands. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may develop as flat areas that are only slightly different from normal skin, or may appear as sores that do not seem to heal on their own. A biopsy of the suspicious area is often required to confirm the presence of skin cancer.

Treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancers may include applying skin creams; excision, or surgically removing the affected area; cryosurgery, or “freezing” abnormal tissue by applying liquid nitrogen; laser-light exposure combined with topical treatment, also known as photodynamic therapy; electrosurgery, in which a sharp curette removes suspicious tissue and the base of the area is destroyed with a tiny electrical probe; or radiation therapy. Doctors may recommend Mohs micrographic surgery, in which tumor tissue is removed and examined one very thin section at a time to be sure all the cancerous cells are cleared from the treated area before a patient leaves the doctor’s office. Surgical risks include possible bleeding, infection, pain, or an unsightly cosmetic result.

In about 5% to 15% of cases, tumors may recur within a few years and require secondary treatment. Patients younger than age 65, redheads, and those with significant sun damage are at a greater risk for repeat instances of nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Although Caucasians have the highest rates of nonmelanoma skin cancers, Hispanic patients are presenting with the disease at younger ages, and rates are rising among Hispanic and Asian women, according to a 2015 retrospective study conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

To learn more about nonMelanomas, from prevention to the latest clinical research, visit the American Cancer Society.