BCC (basal cell carcinoma)

BCC is the most common but least dangerous form of skin cancer. It accounts for 50 to 70% of all skin cancers treated in Australia. The tumor starts from the basal cells of the skin, taking many months to develop.

Long-term sun exposure plays a crucial part in its development, with most BCC's occurring on areas such as the face, neck, trunk or limbs, although they can also occur on less exposed areas.

Age is also an important factor, with 96% of BCC's occurring in those over 40 years old, though recently it has become more common in younger persons.

It rarely ever metastasizes (spreads via the blood stream) to distant body sites, but it can still be a very serious cancer. It can grow down and damage structures in the tissues beneath it.

The commonest forms are superficial and nodular BCC's. Superficial BCC's look more like a flat scaly pink area. Nodular BCC's appear as small pale or pearly lumps, which are painless and may bleed or ulcerate . There are rarer forms such as micro-nodular and morpheic, which are much more serious, harder to diagnose and to treat.

As with all forms of cancer, early detection and early treatment provide the best chance of a full cure. In most cases BCCs are cured, and excellent cosmetic results can be achieved.

Diagnosis of larger BCC's may be relatively straight-forward but early BCC's may be quite subtle and require a biopsy and subsequent histological diagnosis. Biopsies are frequently necessary, even in larger lesions, to accurately classify the type of BCC, so that the correct treatment is chosen.

Usually treatment is by simple surgical excision. Other options include Aldara (topical cream) or curettage for superficial BCCs. Occasionally, Mohs surgery (a more complex procedure) or radiotherapy is used in more aggressive BCC types.

After experiencing an initial basal cell cancer, the patient has a one in three chance of developing a second BCC within five years. Therefore once a BCC has occurred, follow up visits are necessary and important.

For prevention the most important thing is to protect your skin from the sun.

If you have ever had a BCC, or if you have any other suspicious spot, please contact us for an appointment.

Images of Basal Cell Carcinoma - BCC