Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
These are skin cancers that arise from the cells that form the base of the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, and are thought to be due to sunburn and frequent UV exposure. BCC accounts for the vast majority of skin cancers, with more than 250,000 cases diagnosed in Australia each year. They are more common the closer you live to the equator. Unlike other skin cancers such as melanoma, it is very unusual for a BCC to spread from where it starts to other parts of the body, although they can expand and penetrate deeply into the skin if they are not detected and treated. There are several subtypes, with Superficial and Nodular being the least likely to penetrate deeply, whereas Miconodular and Morphoeic types tend to bury deeply and widely into the skin.
Who is at risk?
Some people are particularly prone to this type of skin cancer, which are most commonly diagnosed in people with fair skin, although they can occur less commonly in
people with olive and darker complexions. Outdoor workers and sportspeople are prone to BCC, which is why it is necessary to always remember to wear sun protective clothing and protect the skin from the sun when outdoors. Traditionally BCC has been a condition seen in people older than 40, however over the last few years there are an increasing number of people in their 20’s and 30’s with BCC.
Typically BCC is a slow growing type of skin cancer, often on the face and upper body, and may be noticed as a flat or slightly raised pink or multicoloured spot, which may weep slightly when wiped with a towel. Sometimes they feel irritated. The micronodular and morphoeic types tend to look more like a thick, flat white scar. If you notice a spot appear that looks like a pimple that will not heal over a few weeks then it may be a BCC and you should consult your doctor. A small skin biopsy may be required to confirm the diagnosis. If a BCC is detected then a suitable management plan can be tailored according to the location and subtype of the BCC.
Fortunately the vast majority of BCC’s are able to be completely cured, either with surgical removal, or sometimes with topical creams. Treatment options are most simple when BCC is detected in its earliest stage of growth.
Sometimes, despite the previous removal of a BCC, the lesion recurs. For this reason it is wise to have your wound assessed a few months after your procedure, as well as on a regular basis, as advised by your doctor.
People who have had a previous BCC are at increased risk of getting new ones as well as other skin cancers. For this reason, a regular complete skin examination by your doctor is advisable, as well as regular self skin examination. In addition, strict adherence to adequate sun protection measures should be adopted.