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Basal Cell Carcinoma

What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Picture of Basal Cell Carcinoma Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer that grows on parts of your skin that get a lot of sun. It's natural to feel worried when your doctor tells you that you have it, but keep in mind that it's the least risky type of skin cancer. As long as you catch it early, you can be cured.

This cancer is unlikely to spread from your skin to other parts of your body, but it can move nearby into bone or other tissue under your skin. Several treatments can keep that from happening and get rid of the cancer.

The tumors start off as small shiny bumps, usually on your nose or other parts of your face. But you can get them on any part of your body, including your trunk, legs, and arms. If you've got fair skin, you're more likely to get this skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma usually grows very slowly and often doesn't show up for many years after intense or long-term exposure to the sun. You can get it at a younger age if you're exposed to a lot of sun or use tanning beds.

Causes

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from a tanning bed are the main cause of basal cell carcinoma.

When UV rays hit your skin, over time, they can damage the DNA in your skin cells. The DNA holds the code for the way these cells grow. Over time, damage to the DNA can cause cancer to form. The process takes many years.

Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma can look different. You may notice a skin growth in a dome shape that has blood vessels in it. It can be pink, brown, or black.

At first, a basal cell carcinoma comes up like a small "pearly" bump that looks like a flesh-colored mole or a pimple that doesn’t go away. Sometimes these growths can look dark. Or you may also see shiny pink or red patches that are slightly scaly.

Another symptom to watch out for is a waxy, hard skin growth.

Basal cell carcinomas are also fragile and can bleed easily.

Getting a Diagnosis

Your doctor will look at your skin for growths. He may also ask you questions such as:

  • Did you spend a lot of time in the sun while you were growing up?
  • Have you had blistering sunburns?
  • Do you use sunscreen?
  • Have you ever used tanning beds?
  • Have you had unusual bleeding spots on your skin that don't heal?

Your doctor will take a sample, or biopsy, of the growth. He'll will numb the area and remove some of the skin. Then he sends it to a lab, where it will be tested for cancer cells.

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