Basal Cell Carcinoma
Effective Treatments for the Most Common Form of Skin Cancer in Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, and Philadelphia
Basal cell carcinoma, a non-melanoma type of skin cancer, is the most common but least dangerous form of cancer of the skin, because it typically grows slowly. Statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation show that four million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. As with any other cancer of the skin, early detection is key, because it makes treatment easier and increases the likelihood of successfully curing basal cell carcinoma. Our Philadelphia-area physicians specialize in diagnosing and removing basal cell carcinoma along with other, related types of skin cancers on patients from Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, Main Line, and all of Philadelphia.
What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma develops in the outermost layer of the skin, affecting the cells responsible for creating new skin cells at the base of the epidermis. Basal cell carcinoma is unlikely to be deadly, but can eventually cover a wide area of the skin, causing lasting damage and disfigurement. When left untreated, it can spread into surrounding bone and tissue, so it is important to have it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma?
People with fairer skin have a higher risk of getting basal cell carcinoma. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is the main risk factor. Basal cell carcinoma usually results from many years of intense or extensive exposure to the sun or artificial sources of UV light, such as tanning beds. This radiation harms the DNA of skin cells, causing them to grow abnormally and uncontrollably.
Primary risk factors for basal cell carcinoma include:
- long-term UV light exposure
- very fair skin that freckles and burns easily
- light hair and eyes
- being an older adult
- being a man
- a family history of skin cancer
- a weakened immune system
- radiation treatment
- exposure to some chemicals
- severe or chronic skin injury or inflammation
What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Look Like?
Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and typically appears on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the head, neck, arms, legs, and torso. In some cases, however, it might occur in areas that aren't normally exposed to sunlight.
Patients may notice a small, "pimple-like" lesion or scaly patch that doesn't go away after several months or years, and progressively increases in size.
The appearance of these marks can vary depending on the person. You may notice:
- a rounded flesh-colored or pink bump with blood vessels in it
- pink, brown, pearly-white, or black coloring
- shiny, scaly, hard, or waxy skin growths
- crusty, fragile skin that bleeds easily
- marks with a slightly raised appearance, rolled edges, and an indentation at the center
How Can You Prevent Basal Cell Carcinoma?
To reduce the chance of basal cell carcinoma, sun protection is most important. Try to avoid going out into the sun at the time of the day when the rays are most intense, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher throughout the year, wear protective clothing, and regularly check your skin all over so you can notice any changes.
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Medical Treatment Options for Basal Cell Carcinoma
There are various treatments available from our Bryn Mawr Skin & Cancer Institute physicians. Our dermatologists will start by discussing your medical history, examining any suspicious lesions you have noticed and performing a total body skin cancer exam. If any lesion is suspicious for cancer, a skin biopsy will be done.
The most suitable treatment option for you depends on the size of the lesion, where it is located, and the potential risk for scarring.
The comprehensive treatments we provide include Mohs surgery, excisional surgery, electrodessication and curettage, cryosurgery, and prescription topical medications.