Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for 80% of all skin cancers. BCC most often appears on areas of the body that have the greatest amount of sun exposure. This includes the face, ears, scalp, back of the neck, and back of the arms and hands. 

There are three subtypes of basal cell carcinoma: 

  • Superficial BCC appears as a reddish spot or patch with a fine scale on the top, sometimes with a small erosion on the surface. 
  • Nodular BCC appears as a waxy or translucent nodule with a pearly white or brown pigmentation, and possibly fine blood vessels (capillaries) on its surface. 
  • Sclerosing (or morpheaform) BCC appears like a scar with poorly defined, blurred borders. It is usually flat with a thinning of the skin. 

BCC is relatively easy to detect and cure rates are excellent, if treated early. BCC can resemble other skin conditions, so tell your doctor if you notice unusual skin changes, such as: 

  • A sore that comes and goes but bleeds or never completely heals. 
  • A shiny bump or nodule, especially if it appears pearly or translucent or brown/reddish like a mole. 
  • A slightly raised pink growth with a crusted depression in the center, possibly with tiny blood vessels visible on the surface. 
  • A patch of skin that is red or irritated, especially on the chest, shoulders, arms or legs.  
  • A white or yellowish waxy scar with poorly defined borders. 

Your doctor will recommend a treatment based on your medical history and the type of BCC, its size, shape, and location. Treatment options include medications such as 5-fluorouracil and imiquimod cream, curettage and desiccation, cryotherapy, excision, and Mohs surgery. The best treatment is early detection. Examination by a dermatologist can help assess whether or not a lesion is a basal cell carcinoma. 

Learn more about Dermatology at The Oregon Clinic