April 27, 2018 | Stephen Fine, Founder and President
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Melanoma is the worst form of skin cancer, but skin cancer’s most common form is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). Each year, there are more new cases of BCC diagnosed than of all other cancers combined. Unlike advanced melanoma, this disease is rarely fatal. However, it can cause extensive skin damage and should be taken seriously.
BCC is similar to an iceberg, in that the majority of it often resides below the surface. But what is visible is not pretty, neither literally or figuratively. If left untreated, BCC may lead to surgery that results in permanent disfigurement.
Warning: Signals Ahead
Fortunately for us, in general skin cancer has an Achilles heel that many other diseases don’t have. It (usually) announces its arrival visually while there’s still time to do something about it.
Regarding BCC, be wary of waxy, red, pink, or flesh-colored nodules (sometimes cratered) or flat growths that bleed, itch and/or don’t heal. If any of these are discovered during one of your monthly skin self-exams, visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.
These are 2 examples of BCC:
The Usual Suspect
As with the majority of skin-related damage and cancers, the sun and its UV (ultraviolet) rays are mostly to blame for BCC. (Tanning beds are another significant source of skin cancer). The nose is the most sun-exposed area of the face and is among the most common sites of BCC.
People with light complexions have a greater risk of developing BCC. But anyone of any skin-tone should take protective measures against UV rays. Although BCC can occur at any age, it’s most common in people who are over 40. It’s also more prevalent in those who live in sunny or high-altitude regions. Though it is important to keep in mind that UV ray-related skin damage occurs in every climate, and during all types of weather.
The Correct Treatment
Once BCC is diagnosed, there are multiple treatment options available. A dermatologist will choose the one best-suited to help a given patient. Shave biopsy is common. And if BCC has developed in a cosmetically-sensitive area, such as the face, Moh’s microsurgery is often employed.
The goal of this procedure is to remove as much of the BCC as possible while saving the healthy tissue around it. Layers of skin are removed one at a time and examined under a microscope until all the cancer is gone. This reduces the chance of needing future treatments or surgery.
Playing it Safe
The best way to avoid BCC is by practicing the same techniques you already use to protect yourself against other skin cancers and melanoma. These include wearing (and frequently re-applying) sunscreen while outdoors or driving, and wearing long sleeves, pants and broad-brimmed hats. Whenever possible, try to avoid being outdoors during the sun’s peak hours between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
*Additional source articles: DermNetNZ.org