Overview of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells. The basal cells are a type of cell that is found within the skin that produces the new cells as the old skin cells die off. This type of cancer can appear as a transparent bump on the skin. It is important to know that this type of cancer can take many other forms. If you have questions about this cancer, please consult your physician. This type of skin cancer is typically found on areas that see the sun most often. The most common areas that are affected are the neck and the head. The best way to avoid this is to wear sunscreen, avoid the sun, and wear a hat or protective shirt.
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is typically found on the areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun. These areas are typically the head and the neck. The first symptom that people notice are a small change in the skin. This can look like a growth or a sore that does not heal.
You may notice that it has a white, flesh, or pink bump. It may be pearly or translucent and blood vessels may be visible through it. If your skin is a darker complexion, then the spot on the skin may mimic your complexion. This skin spot may bleed, scab, or even rupture. The skin spot may also be blue, brown, or black with a translucent border. A flat, red, scaly patch is the most common on the back or the chest. These types of patches grow to be very large over time. The least common type of skin patch is white, scar-like, and waxy without a clear border. This is called the morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.
It is essential to make an appointment with your physician when you notice a change in the skin. Changes may include new growth, recurring sores, or changes in the previous growth.
Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The main cause of basal cell carcinoma is being exposed to the sun. This type of cancer occurs when the basal skin cells develop a mutation in the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA). The basal skin cells are found at the bottom of the epidermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. When new cells are produced, they push the old skin cells towards the surface where they die and are forced off. This process is controlled by the DNA, which are the instructions on what to do are stored. The DNA mutation makes the skin cells reproduce very fast and they do not die. This mutation causes the cancerous tumor to appear.
Risk Factors of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is believed to cause the mutation in the DNA. UV radiation can be found in tanning lamps and tanning beds. The sun can also cause this mutation. There are many other risks factors that can lead to this type of cancer.
The main risk factor of basal cell carcinoma is the long-term exposure to the sun or tanning beds. The threat of this type of cancer is higher in people that live in a high-altitude location or stay in the sun for extended periods of time. Multiple sunburns over any period of time can also cause you to be at an increased risk.
In some cases, you can inherit syndromes that are known to cause skin cancer, such as Gorlin-Goltz syndrome.
Some immune-suppressing drugs can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer. An example of this type of drug is the anti-rejection drug after transplant surgery. If you are curious if you are on a medication that may cause skin cancer, consult your physician.
Arsenic is a metal that is found in the environment that is also known to cause basal cell carcinoma as well as many other cancers. Nearly everyone is exposed to arsenic at some point since it occurs naturally. Some people are at an increase of exposure because they may be exposed through work or they may consistently drink from a contaminated well.
This type of cancer appears in older adults, but it is becoming more common in people in their 20’s and 30’s. As you get older, it is essential to continually see your physician and have any spots checked on.
If you have fair skin, you are at a higher risk of skin cancer as well. This is especially true in people that burn easily, freckle, have light skin, light hair, and light eyes.
Sometimes, if you have had basal cell carcinoma, then you have a chance of developing it again, If your family has had this type of skin cancer or any other type of skin cancer, then you are also at an increased risk of skin cancer.
Radiation therapy is often used to treat acne or a variety of other skin conditions. Radiation therapy increases the risk of basal cell carcinoma as well.
Complications of Basal Cell Carcinoma
While basal cell carcinoma is not usually life threatening, there are many complications that can arise. The most dangerous complication from this is cancer that spreads. Very seldom does basal cell carcinoma spread, but it can spread to other lymph nodes and various parts of the body such as the bones and lungs. It also puts you at a greater risk for other types of skin cancer, most commonly squamous cell carcinoma. More frequently, basal cell carcinoma returns. If you have had this type of cancer before, be sure to pay close attention to the changes of your skin.
Prevention of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The best way to prevent basal cell carcinoma is to avoid the sun and tanning beds as much as possible. Do not go outside during the strongest parts of the day – such as between 10am and 4pm. The best time to go outside is in the evening or in the winter. If you do not wear sunscreen, it is important to start wearing sunscreen daily. Apply it more generously if you are going to be outside doing an activity. In addition to wearing sunscreen, you should also wear protective clothing items, such as a hat or long sleeve UV protective shirts. If you are exposed to the sun often, then you will need to check your skin regularly and speak with your physician about any changes that are occurring.
Diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The beginning of a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma is a general physical exam, where they will look at your skin and ask about your medical history. It is important to check for changes on yourself and know if your family members have previously had skin cancer as well. Your physician will then check your skin and may send a sample off for biopsy. Your physician may recommend that you come to our office for a scan to ensure that the cancer has not spread or is not on places that have not previously been noticed.
Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The goal of treating skin cancer is to remove the cancer completely. In some cases, the physician may have to remove the cancer through surgery and the tissue that is surrounding it. In other cases, the physician will attempt to remove the cancer by freezing the cancer cells, also calls cryosurgery.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells. This is most commonly used when there is an increased risk of the cancer returning or when surgery is not an option for someone.
If the cancer has spread to nearby body areas, then the physician may recommend targeted drug therapy or chemotherapy.