Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of cancer,
with about a million new cases estimated in the U.S. each year.
Basal cells line the deepest layer of the epidermis. Basal cell
carcinomas are malignant growths—tumors—that arise
in this layer. Basal Cell Carcinomas may be pink pearly papules, crusty spots, ulcerated bumps or persistent shiny patches. Sometimes basal cell carcinoma bleeds, itches or hurts but other times it has no sensation. Click here to see photos of BCC on the Skin Cancer Foundation web site.
Basal cell carcinoma can usually be diagnosed with a simple
biopsy and is fairly easy to treat when detected early. However,
5 to 10 percent of BCCs can be resistant to treatment or locally
aggressive, damaging the skin around them, and sometimes invading
bone, and cartilage. When not treated quickly, they can be difficult
to eliminate. Fortunately, however, this is a cancer that has
an extremely low rate of metastasis, and although it can result
in scars and disfigurement, it is not usually life threatening.
The ultraviolet light, whether it is produced by the sun or in indoor tanning beds, is responsible for over 90 percent of all skin cancers,
including BCCs, which occur most frequently on the sun-exposed
areas of the body: face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and
Am I At Risk?
Anyone with a history of frequent or intermittently intense ultraviolet light exposure can develop BCC, but a number of factors increase
Time Spent Outdoors or In Tanning Beds
People who work outdoors, who use indoor tanning beds or who spend their leisure hours in
the sun are at greater risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
Fair-skinned, blue or green-eyed individuals who sunburn easily and tan minimally
or not at all have a higher incidence of skin cancer than
Hours of Sunlight
The more hours of sunlight in the day, the greater the incidence
of skin cancer. For example, there are more cases of basal cell carcinoma in Arizona,
Texas and Florida—states that are closer to the equator
and get more sun—than in the more northern states of
Maine, Oregon and Washington.